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Friday, May 21, 1999 Published at 15:54 GMT 16:54 UK

World: Europe

Minister faces HIV scandal trial

Relatives of victims have campaigned for justice

A further 30 people, including a former health minister, could be put on trial over a continuing French scandal in which HIV-infected blood was used in medical treatment.

A judge will determine whether the trials will start within the next two years.

Groups representing victims say nearly 4,000 people were infected in the 1980s after the French authorities postponed for commercial reasons the screening of new blood products for HIV.

Former Prime Minister Laurent Fabius and his Social Affairs Minister, Georgina Dufoix, were acquitted of manslaughter in a trial two months ago.

They were accused of participating in an alleged plan to delay the screening of blood products in 1985 until a French company could match a rival American product already on the market.

Both denied the government ever had any such plan.

[ image: Claude Elvin could stand trial]
Claude Elvin could stand trial
A judge who has been investigating the case for six years, Marie-Odile Bertella Geffroy, now says a former Health Minister, Claude Evin, should be tried for failing to inform victims that they could infect others.

The accusation against him has been raised by relatives of a woman who died of Aids in 1991.

The relatives accuse Mr Evin of failing to inform patients, who received blood transfusions in the 1980s, that they could infect others with the deadly virus.

If Mr Evin does face trial the case will be heard in the Court of Justice of the Republic, the only court that may try ex-government ministers.

Another former Health Minister, Edmond Herve, has already been convicted over the scandal but was not given a penalty.

Judge Christian Le Gunehec told the ex-minister that due to the length of the scandal, the former health minister had not benefited from the "presumption of innocence to which he is entitled".

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