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Pop star 'sorry' for passing on HIV

She is Germany's fallen angel: a pop star named Nadja Benaissa who is accused of infecting at least one lover with HIV.

At a court in Darmstadt yesterday, the 28-year-old singer from the girl group No Angels told her infected former boyfriend: "I am sorry from the bottom of my heart."

Her five-day trial is likely to set new standards in dealing with celebrities -- and to raise delicate legal questions about determining responsibility for the consequences of unprotected sex.

Ms Benaissa was arrested last year and, within days, the Darmstadt state prosecutor charged her with causing grievous bodily harm by conducting unprotected sex while knowingly suffering from HIV. She faces up to 10 years in jail.

It is not clear how Ms Benaissa contracted Aids. In a statement she said: "I had been told that there was an almost zero possibility of infecting anybody or of full-blown Aids breaking out. So I didn't tell my friends. I didn't want my daughter to be stigmatised."

She did, however, tell her fellow band members, who have been called as witnesses. No Angels have been hailed as the most successful girl band in continental Europe, with four No 1 singles and three No 1 albums.

According to the state prosecutor, Ms Benaissa was told of her HIV infection in 1999. She was 17 at the time and is, therefore, being tried by a youth court.

She allegedly slept with three men on at least five occasions between 2000 and 2004 without making her condition known.

One of them, a 34-year-old former boyfriend, was infected in 2004 and was in court as a co-plaintiff. "You have unleashed a heap of misery into the world," he told the singer yesterday.