Tearful German pop star confesses in HIV trial

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A German pop star broke down in tears Monday as she admitted keeping her HIV positive status a secret from three lovers at the start of her trial for causing grievous bodily harm.

"I am so sorry," the 28-year-old Nadja Benaissa told the court in Darmstadt near Frankfurt, dressed in a purple shirt, jeans and with her hair tied back. She denied however intending to infect anyone with the virus that causes AIDS.

Benaissa, a member of the all-female pop group No Angels, was arrested last April just as she was about to perform at a Frankfurt nightclub and spent 10 days in custody before being released.

In February this year she was charged with causing bodily harm and attempting to cause bodily harm. If convicted Benaissa faces between six months and 10 years in prison. A verdict is due on on August 26.

According to the charge sheet, she had sex on five occasions between 2000 and 2004 with three people and did not tell them she was infected, even though she had known since 1999.

"It looks as though she infected one of them. That is what we believe," prosecutor Gerd Neuber said. This man, who has not been named, was due to appear as a plaintiff in the trial.

No Angels shot to fame in 2000 thanks to a television talent show and had a string of hits in central Europe before splitting up in 2003. They reformed in 2007 and competed in the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest.

Before her arrest the fact that Benaissa, who is half Moroccan, was HIV positive was not publicly known.

When she was charged the news was leaked to the press, sparking a debate about trial by media in a country that partly for historical reasons is highly sensitive about privacy and the presumption of innocence.

The other three members of No Angels were among around 20 witnesses due to testify in the trial, which was being held in a youth court because the first alleged incident took place in 2000 when Benaissa was 17.

In a television interview in July 2009 the singer, who admitted being addicted to crack cocaine when she was 14, talked about living with being HIV positive.

"I can't just go anywhere I like and be free and be a normal person. I now have this stamp. I will do my best to make the most of it," she said.

"I am actually completely healthy, not sick. I am HIV positive. Being HIV positive doesn't mean being ill. If the disease breaks out it is called AIDS. I have a completely normal life expectancy."

In October an authorised biography of the the singer, who is rumoured to be considering leaving No Angels, is due to be released with the title, "Nadja Benaissa -- Everything is going to be alright."

© 2010 AFP

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