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Aachen nurses in court for mocking helpless patients

Five nurses - four male and one female - went on trial on Tuesday in the western city of Aachen. The defendants are accused of taking degrading pictures of patients who were too ill to object.

The five nurses, who are between 25 and 32 years old and worked for the University Hospital Aachen at the time the incidents are said to have taken place between the end of 2013 and the start of 2014, are alleged to have taken selfies with patients who were either suffering from dementia, were sedated, drunk or otherwise incapacitated.

Prosecutors have charged the nurses, who were let go following the alleged incidents, with violating the patients' highly personal space through taking degrading pictures without their consent.

According to regional state broadcaster WDR, the prosecution told the court on Tuesday that the defendants took photos of nine patients - some of whom were only partially dressed- who could not give their consent due to not being fully conscious.

Some of the images were allegedly shared on messenger service WhatsApp - among them an image that showed a patient's exposed chest with a heart and a name written on it. He also had Dracula-like teeth drawn on his face with cream, the prosecution said.

Other pictures showed some of the defendants in bed with a patient. A short video showed a dementia patient asking "Who are you?" to which one of the defendants apparently replied "a terrorist."

In court, some of the nurses said they lay down next to patients in their beds and took pictures, according to German news agency DPA. "We didn't think anything of it," they told the court on Tuesday.

State broadcaster WDR says the defendants have all confessed to taking the pictures, but insist that some of the mostly elderly patients had given consent.

The court is not expected to hear the patients, some of which cannot now be identified. Some have died since the incidents are alleged to have taken place.

The incidents came to light after the hospital's management received an anonymous tip-off in the autumn of 2014. The defendants are facing up to one year in prison. The verdict is scheduled for January 21.