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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 June, 2003, 17:26 GMT 18:26 UK
French court ends tainted blood case
Protest outside the court
Magistrates were jeered by protesters
France's highest appeal court has ended a protracted legal battle over a scandal involving HIV-contaminated blood, throwing out charges against 30 officials and health workers.

The Court of Cassation said there was no legal basis for charging the officials - who include current Renault chief executive Louis Schweitzer - because prosecutors could not prove the intention of causing death.

Thousands of people were infected with the HIV virus in 1985 after receiving improperly screened blood transfusions.

Prosecutors have brought several cases to court over the affair, most recently appealing against a lower court ruling that the officials had no case to answer.

The AFP news agency said the magistrates were jeered at as they left the building by a large group of victims.

"Shame on you, you haven't even read the file... We will remember your names," some were quoted as saying.

Louis Schweitzer
Schweitzer was cleared of all charges
The officials were accused of delaying the introduction of blood-screening tests and failing to curb the risk of contaminated blood getting into transfusion stocks.

The case is the last of a series of investigations aimed at finding those responsible for the scandal.

Two officials from the National Blood Transfusion Centre were jailed in 1993, and six years later Health Minister Edmond Herve was convicted.

The Socialist prime minister at the time, Laurent Fabius, and Social Affairs Minister Georgina Dufoix were acquitted in the 1999 case.

Altogether about 4,000 people, many of them haemophiliacs, were given blood infected with the HIV virus during the scandal. Many of them have since died.

In most cases they received transfusions before the link between HIV, Aids and blood was fully understood, defendants argued.

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