Gay sex, ecstasy tablets, orgies and rapes to infect the unsuspecting with HIV virus, it all reads like some spinechiller. Only it is not fiction. A gay gang in Netherlands did act out such horrid fantasies. They allegedly trawled the internet to lure fellow homosexuals, drugged those ventured out and went on to rape them with the deadly AIDS virus.
Two of the three arrested reportedly said the very idea of infecting others with the virus excited them. "Our mission is to promtoe unprotected sex as it is the purest form of relationship. This hangup about condoms could be destroyed only when the virus is rampant and everyone reconciles himself to that," one of the arrested has been quoted as saying.
An agonising soulsearching is on in Netherlands over its permissive sex milieu. Health Minister Ab Klink called the case "horrible", as the media splashed the news across its front pages yesterday. The matter came to light when police arrested three seropositive homosexual men after four victims, men aged 25 to 50, accused them of rape and premeditated bodily harm.
Ronald Zwarter, the police chief in the northern town of Groningen, where the alleged crimes took place, said two of those arrested, a couple aged 48 and 33, had confessed. Prosecution spokesman Paul Heidanus said the two who confessed would face charges of rape and "premeditated severe assault", which carries a maximum jail sentence of 16 years.
He said they would not be charged with attempted murder "because of a Supreme Court ruling that found AIDS should no longer be seen as an inevitably fatal disease, but rather a chronic illness". The investigation was continuing to determine exactly what crimes might have been committed by the third suspect, who Mr Heidanus said was involved in the sex parties.
A fourth man who allegedly supplied the three suspects with several litres of the date-rape drug GHB and ecstasy tablets was also arrested. The gang risks up to 16 years in prison. Police and prosecutors said eight more victims have come forward since the case was publicised. Officials said the three seropositive men invited gays contacted on the internet to private homosexual orgies. When the victims turned up, they were allegedly given ecstasy and GHB (which is undetectable when mixed in drinks), leaving them helpless and, in some cases, with no memory of what happened.
The three suspects — one of whom is a male nurse — were said to have raped the men, and even injected some with a mix of their contaminated blood. The case has unnerved the country. unsettled the Netherlands and caused it to take a hard look at its easygoing views on sex, with some suggesting that frequent homosexual orgies posed a public health risk.
"That homos organise orgies is nothing new, but this is something else. This is unimaginable," said Frank van Dalen, the president of a gay rights group called COC. He stressed that the use of GHB (gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid) — known on the street by such nicknames as "easy lay", "gay home boy" and "liquid ecstasy" — also posed a danger in heterosexual circles. Henk Krol, the editor of the homosexual magazine Gaykrant, said: "These people were drugged, it's therefore rape, pure and simple. It's shameful, disgusting and terrifying. Those who did this are crazy."
Health officials pointed to a recent rise in HIV infections in Groningen — from 14 in 2005 to 25 last year, out of a population of 185,000 — as significant. "This doesn't mean that the rise is entirely explained by the orgies ... but it's probable that part of the rise has been caused by them," Marco Ter Harmsel, of Grongingen's municipal health service, told the Dutch newspaper DRC.