AIDS looms over French boy in Dubai rape

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DUBAI, Nov 9 (Reuters) The mother of a French boy who said he was gang-raped by three United Arab Emirates nationals said she was tormented by fear her son might contract the AIDS virus.

''Of course I'm worried... Do you think a mother could not be afraid that her son gets AIDS?'', Veronique Robert told Reuters in an interview before leaving Dubai with her 15-year-old son who testified at a court hearing on Wednesday about the assault.

''We carry out tests on Alexandre each month. Until now he is OK, but we have to wait,'' she said before boarding a Paris-bound plane at Dubai airport.

''We have to wait and we hope nothing (wrong) will happen,'' she said.

Veronique, a Swiss national, reiterated her accusations that UAE authorities had deliberately concealed the fact that one of the suspected rapists tested HIV-positive in 2003, delaying medical attention for her son.

''They did not tell us. Maybe it is a dysfunction, maybe it is a lie, I don't know,'' she said anxiously.

''The justice authority knew since March 23, 2003 that one of the attackers of Alexandre had AIDS. That is in the official documents of the Ministry of Interior. We asked them to get (a) blood test and we waited and then they lied to us. Then our lawyers discovered that,'' she said.

Dubai Police Chief Dahi Khalfan Tamim on Wednesday declined to comment on the case, saying: ''I think she is blaming everyone ...'' Alexandre gave his testimony at a closed court hearing on Wednesday. His mother said Alexandre told the criminal court that the suspects, a boy and two men, lured him and a friend into their car and gang-raped him at knifepoint in July.

Two of the suspects, aged 36 and 18, deny the charges. The third, 17, is being tried in a juvenile court.

''I will come back on Tuesday for the trial. Alexandre will go back to school in Switzerland and we will try to forget that (the ordeal),'' said Veronique, who works for a French television station.

The trial will resume next week.

''I was loving Dubai and I insist on that... I didn't see the dark side of Dubai (then),'' said the former resident of the UAE, whose family started a Web site calling for boycotting Dubai, a regional tourism hub which is hoping to more than double its number of visitors to 15 million by 2015.

''What changed (my opinion) was not what happened to Alexandre because that happens in Switzerland, France and in the U.S.

''The only point that is really hurting me and now makes me have bad feelings about Dubai is the way they treat Alexandre, the way they treat the situation, the way they try to cover everything and the way that AIDS, rape and homosexuality are taboo in this country.'' REUTERS YA RK2150

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