German pop singer tried over HIV allegation

Published August 17, 2010

DARMSTADT, Germany – A German singer facing accusations that she infected a man with the virus that causes AIDS acknowledged in court Monday that she had unprotected sex despite knowing she was HIV-positive.

Nadja Benaissa, 28, a member of German girl band No Angels, is charged with grievous bodily harm for allegedly infecting a partner with the virus in 2004 and also faces charges of attempted bodily harm for having unprotected sex with two other men.

"I am sorry from my heart," she said in a statement read by her lawyer to the Darmstadt administrative court. "No way did I want my partner to be infected."

The man who claims Benaissa infected him says they had a three-month relationship at the beginning of 2004, and that he got tested after Benaissa's aunt asked him in 2007 whether he was aware that the singer was HIV-positive.

In her statement, Benaissa told the court she became addicted to crack cocaine at 14 and that during her pregnancy at 16, she found out that she was HIV positive, the news agency ddp reported.

After winning a TV talent show, "Popstars," in 2000, she joined No Angels with four other young women and hid her illness from everyone for fear it would damage her career.

Of that time, the singer said in her statement, "I grew apart from everyone, even myself."

No Angels sold more than 5 million albums before breaking up in 2003.

Along with three other members from the original band, Benaissa helped reform the group in 2007. They performed to a disastrous result in the 2008 Eurovision song contest, coming in 23rd out of 25 contestants.

No Angels were heading into a concert in Frankfurt in April 2009, when Benaissa was taken into custody and kept for 10 days — a move that a German AIDS awareness group criticized as disproportionate. The Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe group argued that the question of whether her partners also carried a share of the responsibility had been neglected.

Five more sessions are scheduled in her trial. It is not clear if Benaissa will give any further testimony.

A verdict is expected Aug. 26. She could face several years in prison if found guilty, although her acknowledgment of wrongdoing is expected to result in a milder punishment.

Written by Associated Press

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