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HIV Trial Opens In Southern Kazakhstan --> (RFE/RL) January 19, 2007 -- The trial of 21 physicians and health officials accused of responsibility for an outbreak of HIV infections in the Southern Kazakhstan region began today in Shymkent.

The hearings are taking place behind closed doors, and police forces have cordoned off the courthouse. The trial adjourned after a few hours, and will resume on January 22.

Citing unidentified sources close to the case, the Kazakhstan Today news agency reported that lawyers for the defendants today demanded that both the presiding judge, Ziyaddinkhan Pirniyaz, and the state prosecutor be removed from the case.

The lawyers reportedly wanted to protest the decision to hold the trial behind closed doors, which was made without their consent.

Eight Shymkent children died of AIDS and dozens of others were found to have been contaminated with HIV. Authorities suspect those patients received transfusions of infected blood.

The outbreak stirred public outrage in the country and led to the dismissal of Health Minister Yerbolat Dosaev and Southern Kazakhstan Governor Bolat Jylkyshiev.

(Kazakhstan Today, Interfax-Kazakhstan)