Fabius on Aids blood charge

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The Independent Online
PARIS (AFP) - Laurent Fabius, France's former Socialist prime minister, was charged yesterday with complicity to poison in connection with the distribution of HIV-tainted blood products to haemophiliacs in the early 1980s which has so far caused the deaths of more than 300 people.

Mr Fabius, 48, is the third and final of three Socialist ministers to appear this week in the newly created Court of the Republic, set up last year to try politicians for offences committed in office. He faced questioning by a panel of three investigating magistrates before he was formally charged.

On Monday, his former colleague, the ex-social affairs minister, Georgina Dufoix, was charged in connection with the scandal, in which around 1,200 haemophiliacs were infected with the HIV virus. She was questioned for four hours.

On Thursday, the ex-secretary of state for health, Edmond Herve, was charged after seven hours of interrogation.

The three are charged with being accessories to poisoning.

After her indictment on Monday, Ms Dufoix said it was 'unthinkable to imagine that ministers, in France or abroad, could have deliberately wanted to do harm'. Mr Herve pledged to defend his innocence, saying he would 'demonstrate that the accusations against me, whatever they may be, are without foundation'.

Mr Fabius has welcomed the decision to press charges against him and his two colleagues. 'The legal process will now go ahead. Whatever the judicial outcome, I will give it my full support,' he said.

The charges relate to a decision, in 1985, by French health officials to leave batches of unheated contaminated blood in circulation even though heated and therefore safe, products had become available.

Some officials involved, including Michel Garretta, former head of the National Blood Transfusion Service, and one of his deputies, Jean-Pierre Allain, were sentenced to four years in jail, two of them suspended in Allain's case, in October 1992 for knowingly allowing infected blood products to be administered to patients.

They were convicted for 'fraudulent description of goods', but were re-indicted for poisoning.

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