Prosecutor seeks suspended sentence in German HIV trial

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A prosecutor called Wednesday for a suspended jail term for a German pop star on trial for hiding her HIV status from her sexual partners and infecting one of them with the virus.

In closing arguments at the high-profile trial of 28-year-old Nadja Benaissa, prosecutor Peter Liesenfeld called for a two-year suspended sentence for grievous bodily harm.

Liesenfeld said the singer, a member of German all-girl group No Angels, should receive lenient treatment as she had confessed in court and "shown an understanding of her guilt."

Her confession was "an important point that must be taken into consideration," he said.

Benaissa, wearing a long grey shirt and black trousers, appeared nervous as the prosecutor delivered his summing-up and kept her eyes fixed on the ground, not looking at him once.

During testimony earlier in the trial, the mother-of-one broke down in tears as she made a dramatic apology for keeping her HIV status a secret from her sexual partners, but denied intending to infect anyone with the virus.

"I'm so sorry," she told the court in Darmstadt near Frankfurt in western Germany. "When I was arrested I realised that the way I had dealt with the illness had been wrong ... I made a big mistake," she said.

A medical expert, Josef Eberle, testified earlier Wednesday that Benaissa had in all probability infected one of her partners, a plaintiff in the case, as they both had a strain of the virus that is relatively rare in Germany.

When she was charged in February with causing bodily harm and attempting to cause bodily harm, the news was leaked to the press, sparking a media frenzy and a debate about trial by media and presumption of innocence.

The defence was expected to present its closing arguments later Wednesday, with a verdict likely on Thursday.

© 2010 AFP

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