[Update]Germany: Nadja Benaissa trial begins on Monday

Trial

August 13, 2010

The trial of No Angels singer, Nadja Benaissa, now 28, begins this Monday, August 16th in the Darmstadt youth’s magistrate court (Jugendschöffengericht)

She faces accusations of one count of grievous bodily harm for allegedly not disclosing her HIV-positive status prior to unprotected sex in 2004 with a complainant who subsequently tested HIV-positive, and four counts of attempted grievious bodily for allegedly not disclosing her HIV-positive status prior to unprotected sex between 2000 and 2004 with this man, and two others.  If convicted of all charges she faces a maximum of ten years in prison.

Deutsche AIDS Hilfe have recently produced information in English regarding the specifics of Germany’s HIV exposure and transmission criminal laws.  They highlight the difficulty in proving such allegations and also that most allegations follow the breakdown of a relationship.

In Germany, there is no special law that makes the transmission of HIV a punishable offence. Judgment is made in accordance with Sections 223 and 224 of the Criminal Code. Intentional or negligent transmission of HIV is bodily injury according to the Criminal Code. Unprotected sex that carries no infection, is considered attempted bodily injury and is also punishable. Accordingly, people with HIV have to take the necessary measures to protect their partners. The obligation is considered satisfied when the rules for safer sex are followed. There is then no threat of criminal consequences – not even when an infection is transmitted regardless, because the condom broke or slipped, for example.

People with HIV are liable to prosecution if they have unprotected sex and their partner does not know about their infection. The legal position here is clear. In most cases that go to court, however, the situation is more complicated. Often a couple quarrels and breaks up, then one files a lawsuit against the other.  It is often the case that the partner knew about the HIV infection.  If both partners mutually chose not to practice safer sex in these kinds of cases, then the HIV-positive person is not liable to prosecution. These arrangements are very difficult to prove in court, however. Arrangements are often made when those involved are not thinking clearly, for example, because they are in love or high on drugs. But some couples also consciously decide not to use condoms above all when the viral load of the HIV-positive partner is below the detection limit. The risk of infection is then very small.

Bild.de reported in May that Nadja had cancelled all performances with the No Angels (who have been touring Germany to promote their new album, Welcome to the Dance) due to ill health.

Charged

February 13, 2010

Nadja Benaissa, 27, one of the members of Germany’s biggest girl group, No Angels, has finally been charged with one count of aggravated assault and two counts of attempted aggravated assault for allegedly having unprotected sex with three men without disclosing that she was HIV-positive. One of the men has tested HIV-positive.

[Click here for a site refresh with all postings on Ms Benaissa]

Ms Benaissa is thought to be the first woman to be accused of criminal HIV exposure/transmission in Germany (there have been around 15 cases so far, all thought to have involved men), and is only the second celebrity in the world to face such charges (the first being US-born Canadian football player, Trevis Smith).

Given that the Darmstadt public prosecutor has waited ten months following her April 2009 arrest, it is my opinion that he is satisfied that he can obtain a conviction for all three charges. This would involve proving that:

  • she was aware that she was HIV-positive;
  • she knew that she could transmit HIV via sex;
  • she did not disclose her HIV status prior to sex that risked transmission; and
  • for the aggravated assault charge, that she – and only she – could have infected the man who tested HIV-positive. This is not easy to prove, and would require all of the man’s previous partners to be located and tested for HIV, as well as expert testimony highlighting what scientific analysis is able to show, and what it can’t show.

Coverage is likely to be global – it was in the weeks following her arrest – but for today has been limited to the German press. The best English-language article comes from Deutsche Welle, which adds just one extra piece of new information. Since she was under 18 when the alleged acts took place (in 2000) she may be tried as a juvenile. Nevertheless, she could still face up to ten years in prison if found guilty of all charges.

Given her high profile, it is likely that the authorities want to make an example out of her, to warn other people living with HIV that non-disclosure before unprotected sex is unacceptable. They may think they are doing HIV prevention a favour, but this may backfire and lead to a false sense of security from people at risk, who may assume that no disclosure means no HIV risk.

I’m also concerned that unless her defence gets expert advice regarding proof of transmission, she may end up pleading guilty without knowing for certain that she did (or did not) infect the man who is now HIV-positive.

I also worry that, as woman – and a recently-diagnosed young woman at that – she should not have had to carry the burden of HIV prevention solely on her shoulders. That is no legal argument, but definitely a moral and ethical one that requires highlighting.

Charged

No Angels singer released from custody

April 21, 2009
Source: Der Spiegel
Google translation; for original article, please scroll down.

Darmstadt – Ten days after her arrest, no-angels singer Nadja Benaissa was released on remand in Frankfurt on Tuesday. The competent investigating judge of the district court Darmstadt had approved the request of the public prosecutor for detention and the accused of the execution of the detention “under certain conditions spared,” said the vice-president of the district court, Albrecht Simon. He did not want to say what kind of conditions this was. Simon said they were “highly personal things”. The arrest warrant against the singer will continue to be upheld, he said. The singer was thrilled to have her nine-year-old daughter in her arms, said No Angels manager Khalid Schröder, AP news agency. “Nadja is doing well in the circumstances.” On Sunday, the woman from Frankfurt can celebrate her 27th birthday in freedom. The public prosecutor Darmstadt had submitted on 17 April the application for detention. It had been proposed conditions, the fulfillment of “a continuation of pre-trial detention seem unnecessary,” said authorities spokesman Ger Neuber on Monday. The 26-year-old singer was arrested on 11 April in Frankfurt am Main on suspicion of dangerous bodily injury. According to the arrest warrant, there is an urgent suspicion that she had unprotected sex with a total of three people in 2004 and 2006 without referring to her HIV infection. At least one of the three sexual partners was allegedly due to the contact with the singer now also HIV-positive, had informed the Darmstadt prosecutor. The No Angels are considered to be the most successful German girls band so far. The group was cast in 2000 on the TV show “Popstars”. Their albums sold between 2000 and 2003 around five million times. The Berlin lawyer of the singer can for a current criminal behavior of the 26-year-olds, however, “no kind of clues,” as jurist Christian Schertz wrote in a statement.

Hessian Greens criticize action against Benaissa Nadja Benaissa gets political support: Green politician Andreas Jürgens called it on Tuesday scandalously in the Hessian Broadcasting that the arrest of the singer had taken place in public and the media were informed by the prosecutor’s office about their HIV infection. Meanwhile, “regardless of the interests of the accused, all, including very intimate details of the investigation in the press read,” criticized Jürgens. The Greens in the Wiesbaden Landtag accuse, according to HR, the Minister of Justice Jörg Uwe-Hahn (FDP), the rights of the accused have not protected. It was also a scandal that the Minister was still silent and did nothing “to stop the action,” said Jürgens. He pointed out that the Ministry of Justice could issue instructions to prosecutors. Hahn is “almost obligated to intervene moderately”. Hahn should answer the law committee of the state parliament. The spokeswoman for the Minister of Justice told the broadcaster that in the matter of public relations the public prosecutor’s office was “free in its decisions”. It applies the independence of the judiciary.


No-Angels-Sängerin aus U-Haft entlassen

Darmstadt – Zehn Tage nach ihrer Festnahme ist die No-Angels-Sängerin Nadja Benaissa am Dienstag aus der Untersuchungshaft in Frankfurt am Main entlassen worden. Der zuständige Ermittlungsrichter des Amtsgerichts Darmstadt habe dem Antrag der Staatsanwaltschaft auf Haftverschonung zugestimmt und die Beschuldigte vom Vollzug der U-Haft “unter bestimmten Auflagen verschont”, teilte der Vizepräsident des Amtsgerichts, Albrecht Simon, mit.

 
Um welche Auflagen es sich dabei handelt, wollte er auf Anfrage nicht sagen. Simon sagte, es handele sich um “höchst persönliche Dinge”. Der Haftbefehl gegen die Sängerin bleibe weiter aufrechterhalten, erklärte er.

Die Sängerin habe außer sich vor Freude im Auto ihre neunjährige Tochter in die Arme geschlossen, sagte der Manager der No Angels, Khalid Schröder, der Nachrichtenagentur AP. “Nadja geht es den Umständen entsprechend gut.” Am Sonntag kann die Frankfurterin ihren 27. Geburtstag damit in Freiheit feiern.

Die Staatsanwaltschaft Darmstadt hatte am 17. April den Antrag auf Haftverschonung gestellt. Darin seien Auflagen vorgeschlagen worden, deren Erfüllung “eine Fortsetzung der Untersuchungshaft entbehrlich erscheinen lassen”, hatte Behördensprecher Ger Neuber am Montag mitgeteilt.

 

Die 26-jährige Sängerin war am 11. April in Frankfurt am Main wegen des Verdachts der gefährlichen Körperverletzung festgenommen worden. Dem Haftbefehl zufolge besteht der dringende Tatverdacht, dass sie in den Jahren 2004 und 2006 ungeschützten Sex mit insgesamt drei Personen hatte, ohne diese auf ihre HIV-Infektion hingewiesen zu haben. Zumindest einer der drei Sexualpartner sei mutmaßlich infolge des Kontakts mit der Sängerin nun ebenfalls HIV-positiv, hatte die Darmstädter Staatsanwaltschaft mitgeteilt.

Die No Angels gelten als bislang erfolgreichste deutsche Mädchenband. Die Gruppe war im Jahr 2000 bei der TV-Show “Popstars” gecastet worden. Ihre Alben verkauften sich zwischen 2000 und 2003 rund fünf Millionen Mal.

Der Berliner Anwalt der Sängerin kann für ein aktuelles strafrechtliches Verhalten der 26-Jährigen jedoch “keine irgendwie gearteten Anhaltspunkte” erkennen, wie Jurist Christian Schertz in einer Erklärung schrieb.

Hessische Grüne kritisieren Vorgehen gegen Benaissa

Nadja Benaissa bekommt politische Schützenhilfe: Der Grünen-Politiker Andreas Jürgens nannte es am Dienstag im Hessischen Rundfunk skandalös, dass die Verhaftung der Sängerin in der Öffentlichkeit stattgefunden habe und die Medien durch die Staatsanwaltschaft über ihre HIV-Infektion informiert worden seien.

Mittlerweile seien “ohne Rücksichtnahme auf die Interessen der Beschuldigten sämtliche, darunter sehr intime Einzelheiten des Ermittlungsverfahrens in der Presse nachzulesen”, kritisierte Jürgens. Die Grünen im Wiesbadener Landtag werfen laut HR dem Justizminister Jörg Uwe-Hahn (FDP) vor, die Rechte der Beschuldigten nicht geschützt zu haben.

 

Es sei auch ein Skandal, dass der Minister dazu immer noch schweige und nichts unternommen habe, “um dem Treiben Einhalt zu gebieten”, meinte Jürgens. Er wies darauf hin, dass das Justizministerium den Staatsanwaltschaften Weisungen erteilen könne. Hahn sei “nahezu verpflichtet, hier mäßigend einzugreifen”. Hahn soll dem Rechtsausschuss des Landtags Rede und Antwort stehen.

Die Sprecherin des Justizministers erklärte dem Sender, in der Frage der Öffentlichkeitsarbeit sei die Staatsanwaltschaft “frei in ihren Entscheidungen”. Es gelte die Unabhängigkeit der Justiz.

Editorial comment

Nadja Benaissa was released today (Tuesday) after ten days in custody, according to a news report from Der Spiegel.

Darmstadt administrative court vice president Albrecht Simon said the court had ordered Benaissa’s release under certain conditions, but did not specify what those conditions were.

Khalid Schröder, the manager of her pop group, No Angels, is quoted as saying: “Nadja is well under the circumstances.”

Nadja turned 27 last Sunday, whilst still on remand in a Frankfurt prison.

The article also quotes Green politician, Andreas Jürgens, who says it is scandalous that her arrest had taken place in public and that the Darmstadt public prosecutor had informed the media about her HIV status. He accused Hessian Justice Minister, Joerg-Uwe Hahn of not protecting her rights through reamaing silent and doing nothing to stop the activies of the Darmstadt public prosecutor, despite being able to do so.

A spokeswoman for the Justice Minister argued that this was not a political decision, and noted the independence of the judiciary.