A Bern court has sentenced a self-styled “healer” to almost 13 years in jail for intentionally infecting 16 people with HIV using acupuncture needles. The man always denied the charges.
The 54-year-old was found guilty of serious bodily harm and of spreading human diseases. “The accused and nobody else was responsible for the infection of 16 people,” said the presiding judge, Urs Herren, on Friday.
The healer was sentenced to 12 years and nine months in prison, less than the 15 years demanded by the prosecution. The defence had pleaded for an acquittal, saying there were too many open questions, while the man himself claimed that he was the victim of a plot.
According to Herren, the court was convinced by the results showing that the victims were all infected by the same source, most likely by injections given on purpose.
The court president said the accused had proceeded in a “ruthless, devious, senseless and inhuman manner,” adding that the victims would be burdened with the consequences for the rest of their lives.
While the accused denied any wrongdoing, most of the 16 victims were all able to describe similar circumstances for their unwanted and unexpected injections during a “treatment”.
Given the number of testimonies from a group of people from different walks of life and age, the court was convinced that there was no kind of conspiracy against the healer.
The man, who did not react during or after the verdict, remains in custody after the judges decided there was a security risk.
Bern police arrested the healer, who had been free on bail since August, last week after he stopped attending his trial that began earlier this month.
Police stormed his home, where he had barricaded himself inside. The man was armed with a knife and had issued repeated threats.
The case came to the attention of the authorities after an HIV-positive patient told a Bern hospital he had traced his infection back to acupuncture treatments carried out by the accused.
According to media reports, the majority of the infected individuals were students of a music school run by the man, who also ran an acupuncture practice. The infections all happened between 2001 and 2005.
swissinfo.ch and agencies