Ministers may face blood trial

PARIS - The French National Assembly debated yesterday whether to open legal proceedings against two former ministers for the distribution of HIV-contaminated blood products in 1985, writes Julian Nundy.

At the same time, deputies accepted a Senate proposal not to press charges against Laurent Fabius, the Socialist Party first secretary who was prime minister when the unheated and potentially fatal blood concentrates were distributed to haemophiliacs although safe, heated products had become available.

The two ex-ministers who face trial by the High Court, the only body empowered to try politicians for offences committed in ministerial office, are Georgina Dufoix, who was Social Affairs Minister, and Edmond Herve, the Health Minister. Both faced charges under article 63 of the penal code for 'non-assistance to persons in danger', a clause commonly used against passive witnesses to street crime.