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Former Premier, Ministers to Be Charged in Blood Scandal

September 20, 1994

PARIS (AP) _ Former Premier Laurent Fabius and two former members of his Cabinet will be charged this month with complicity in poisoning hemophiliacs who received AIDS-tainted blood products, justice officials said Tuesday.

Fabius, former Social Affairs Minister Georgina Dufoix and former Health Minister Edmond Herve will appear before the special Court of Justice of the Republic at separate hearings from Sept. 27 to Sept. 30, the officials said.

The court, created a year ago, is the only body with the authority to try ministers for crimes allegedly commited while in office.

The decision to charge the three follows two years of legal maneuvering by hemophiliacs and their families, who sought government accountability in a scandal that shook France’s state-run health care system and contributed to the Socialists 1993 legislative defeat.

The scandal grew out of revelations that blood products contaminated with HIV, the AIDS virus, were knowingly distributed to hemophiliacs in 1985. About 1,200 hemophiliacs were contaminated with the AIDS virus as a result, and more than 300 have died.

The decision to charge Fabius and the two other ministers adds a new political dimension to the scandal, which has until now been officially blamed on medical officials alone. Four lower-ranking health officials were convicted in 1992, and a new charge of poisoning has recently been brought against three of them.

Fabius, who maintains he was not consulted about distributing the tainted blood, said Tuesday he welcomed the judicial proceedings as an opportunity for ″justice to accomplish its mission so that the truth is clearly established.″ Herve also said he was pleased he will ″finally be able to explain myself. ... It will allow me to defend my innocence.″

The victims’ families have maintained that Fabius’ government chose not to purchase U.S. technology to cleanse the tainted blood or to buy an American AIDS test to screen donor blood in order to favor a French test that was being perfected at the time.

They also claim that any order to continue using the blood bank’s contaminated stocks had to have originated, even if indirectly, further up the health-care hierarchy.

The French Association of Hemophiles applauded Tuesday’s decision as ″a step forward.″

Judging the three former ministers ″will let us know the rampant high- level laxity so that this does not happen again,″ said the group’s president, Francis Graeve.

The charges had been expected since mid-July, when the prosecutor of the special court, Pierre Truche, formally opened an inquiry into the three former leaders’ roles in the affair.

Mrs. Dufoix is scheduled to appear before the court’s inquiry commission on Sept. 27, Herve on Sept. 29 and Fabius on Sept. 30.

0-94 1742EDT

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