HIV criminal trial opens in the Netherlands
Three men accused of deliberate infection.
A trial concerning a bizarre crime - now known in the Netherlands as ‘the HIV case' - started in the northern Dutch city of Groningen today. Three homosexual men are alleged to have drugged and then deliberately infected at least 14 other men with HIV, the virus that can lead to AIDS.
In 2006, a gay man in Groningen - Roy (not his real name) - responded to an invitation on the internet and ended up at sex party held at someone's home. The
meeting had disastrous consequences.
Jillis Jansen, a student who has worked in a number of gay bars in Groningen and knows the scene well, heard the story from Roy:
"After I spoke to him, I had the distinct impression that he'd been really curious about private sex parties. And what happened to him - at least, what he told me - is that at some point he was drugged and then injected with something. The next thing he remembers is waking up in his own car, that he had parked in the neighbourhood".
A few days later, Roy became very ill. Hospital tests revealed that he had blood from a different blood group running through his veins. The tests also revealed that he was HIV positive. In the course of 2006 and 2007, 13 other gay men were allegedly infected with HIV in the same manner as Roy. All 14 men had been looking for sex and met the three suspects via internet dating sites. All of the alleged victims say they were drugged and then injected, against their will, with HIV-infected blood.
The three suspects now standing trial were arrested in May 2007 and stand accused of deliberately setting out to cause grievous bodily harm.
Jillis Jansen knows of the accused:
"What I know is that haven't been active on the Groningen gay scene for a few years. I know that they used to go to the gay sauna; they were seen there a number of times, but that was seven or eight years ago. A number of people who know them personally told me that they went to live in some village and weren't active on the [Groningen] scene anymore".
The lawyer representing the three suspects refused to comment on the case before the start of the trial. Analysts expect he will try to sow doubt in the minds of the judges, possibly relying on aspects such as: just when exactly were the victims infected with HIV? Was it at the sex parties held by the suspects or was it earlier? Lawyer Fred Kappelhof is acting for the victims and he is certain that the defence will challenge the alleged date of infection.
"I wouldn't be surprised if the defence tries to deny that my clients were infected at the sex parties. I can't really say anything about it except that I believe the Public Prosecutor's Office (PPO) has a very strong case. Reports from a number of experts will be presented during the course of the trial. The PPO is prepared for the defence lawyer's tactics and several experts have been retained in order to answer any challenges by the defence. The reports and the experts' testimony will help to clarify
All 14 of the victims in this case are sick, some of them sicker than others. A number of them are already taking HIV inhibitors. They all want to know why the suspects deliberately infected them with HIV, and hope that the answer to this will be forthcoming during the trial. This trial is without precedent in the Netherlands - never before has there been a criminal charge concerning a large group of men being forcibly and deliberately infected with HIV.