Aids case doctor freed in France

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The Independent Online
JEAN-PIERRE ALLAIN, jailed in France's Aids-contaminated blood case, was released from prison yesterday after serving just over half his sentence but was told he could not leave French soil. This meant that he could not immediately envisage taking up his Cambridge University post as professor of transfusion medicine or resume duties at the East Anglian blood transfusion service.

The reason for the restriction was that Dr Allain, the former head of research at France's National Blood Transfusion Centre, was last week charged with poisoning in a case involving the contamination of haemophiliacs through the use of unheated blood products in the mid-1980s. The magistrate who brought the new charge ordered Dr Allain to stay in France after the public prosecutor's office had appealed against him being paroled.

In the original 1992 trial and an appeals hearing last year at which Dr Allain's sentence of two years in jail with an additional two-year suspended term was confirmed, he faced charges of knowingly distributing unsafe products under articles in the French legal code more usually applied to food which has passed its sell-by date. Michel Garretta, the transfusion centre's former director, was jailed for four years. He too was charged with poisoning last month, a charge which would normally lead to trial before an assize court.

While the medical and scientific community have demonstrated little sympathy for Dr Garretta, there has been considerable support for Dr Allain who was shown to have opposed Dr Garretta virulently within the transfusion service. The addition of new charges for the same case created a French legal precedent, bringing protests from lawyers who insisted that it was impermissible to try a suspect twice for the same affair.

During the 1992 trial, the prosecutor, saying that the four doctors on the defendants' bench were merely a sample of the 100 or so who could have been charged, ruled out any possibility of charging them with poisoning, saying that criminal intent to kill would have to be proven. Haemophiliacs' associations pushed for the more serious charge and campaigned for it to be extended to Socialist politicians in office at the time, including Laurent Fabius, the then prime minister.