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Germany

German pop star gets suspended sentence in HIV case

The high-profile case of German pop singer Nadja Benaissa, who was charged with aggravated assault for having unprotected sex while she knew she was HIV positive, has ended in a two-year suspended sentence.

Nadja Benaissa in a Darmstadt courtroom

Nadja Benaissa expressed remorse for her actions

A German court has given pop singer Nadja Benaissa a two-year suspended sentence for having unprotected sex while failing to tell her sexual partners she was HIV positive.

The 28-year-old Benaissa is a member of the popular girl band No Angels. She discovered she was HIV positive in 1999 when she was three months pregnant.

She was arrested in April 2009 for having unprotected sex with three men in 2004 and 2006 and failing to inform them of her HIV status. To do so can be classified as aggravated assault under German law.

Both the state prosecutor Peter Liesenfeld and her defense had asked the courts for the suspended sentence in the trial, which ended on Wednesday. Liesenfeld cited her confession and her expression of remorse as reasons for lighter sentence.

"I made a huge mistake," Benaissa said in an emotional apology during the closing arguments.

"I am sorry from the bottom of my heart," she said. "I would love to turn back the clock, but I can't."

German band No Angels perform after winning the German competition for the Eurovision Song Contest

After discovering her HIV status, Benaissa (right) found success with the girl band No Angels

Almost certainly infected the man

But the 34-year-old man she infected with HIV gave an angry testimony during the trial, saying she had caused "a lot of suffering in this world."

Because she and the man both have a strain of the virus that is relatively rare in Germany, medical experts had determined the man had almost certainly been infected by Benaissa.

She was also convicted of attempted aggravated assault for having unprotected sex with another man who did not contract the virus.

She said she was afraid that her career would be negatively impacted if it became public that she is HIV positive.

A return to the stage?

Instead of jail time, the pop star is expected to complete 300 hours of community service and attend regular counseling sessions.

No Angels, which first formed in 2000 and got back together in 2007 after a brief break, are expected to restart their tour. That tour was interrupted last year when Benaissa was arrested just before performing in Frankfurt.

Author: Andrew Bowen, Holly Fox (AFP/dpa/Reuters)
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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