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Swiss court jails "healer" for infecting 16 with HIV

The closed apartment of a healer and music teacher is seen in Bern March 14, 2013. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich
The closed apartment of a healer and music teacher is seen in Bern March 14, 2013. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich

ZURICH (Reuters) - A self-styled healer was sentenced to 12 years and nine months in jail on Friday after a Swiss court found the acupuncturist guilty of infecting 16 people with HIV.

A Berne court found the man guilty of causing bodily harm and spreading the virus which can cause Aids, court secretary Rene Graf told Reuters. He did not give any further details.

Prosecutors had sought a sentence of 15 years in jail, according to media reports.

"The accused and nobody else is responsible for infecting the 16 people," Swiss news agency SDA quoted court president Urs Herren as saying, adding the man's motive could have been to seek attention, exact revenge, or prove his omnipotence.

The 54-year-old from the Swiss capital Berne had consistently denied the charges, blaming the victims for contracting HIV through unprotected sex and intravenous drug use, Swiss media reported.

They did not reveal the man's identity or nationality, in accordance with rules on Swiss criminal proceedings.

The case came to the attention of the authorities after an HIV-positive patient told a hospital he suspected his infection was linked to acupuncture treatments he received from the man.

The majority of the infected individuals were students of a music school run by the man, who also had an acupuncture practice. Some of the victims told the court he stabbed them with a needle from behind during treatment, SDA reported.

Police stormed the man's home a week ago after he stopped coming to the trial. The man, who was free on bail, had barricaded himself inside and was armed with a knife, issuing threats to police, according to media reports.

(Reporting by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Clelia Oziel)

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