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'HIV Man' phones lawyer after nine years

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13:40 CET+01:00
An HIV-positive man who is wanted by police for allegedly having unprotected sex with 132 people in Sweden has made contact with his lawyer for the first time since he went missing in 1998.

Mehdi Tayeb, routinely referred to in Swedish media as 'the HIV man', contacted lawyer Peter Althin during the past week.

"He wanted to know the current situation, whether the crime has been written off, and whether there have been any developments in his case," Althin told news agency TT.

An international warrant was put out for Tayeb's arrest in 1998. He is suspected of having had unprotected sex with 130 women and two men. Of these, his girlfriend was infected with HIV, the virus that can cause Aids.

Tayeb, an Iranian who previously lived in Sweden, has previously said he would voluntarily report to the police if Althin could represent him, but the courts denied his request.

Althin said he did not know where Tayeb was calling from and did not know whether he had any intention of returning to Sweden.

"I am surprised by the call and by the fact that he is alive. There have been rumours that he had been hanged," he said.

The fugitive told Althin that he was well. It is not known where he is hiding. The Swedish police received reports in autumn 2003 that Tayeb had been arrested in Iran on suspicion of embezzlement, although this was never confirmed by Iranian authorities.

"We don't know what happened to him, whether he was arrested and convicted and has now been released," said police inspector Lone Callias.

The investigation into Tayeb remains officially active, although it has effectively been sidelined in recent years. The only concrete action taken on the case in recent years is that prosecutors have explored the possibilities of getting Tayeb arrested in Iran and put on trial there.

"We have been informed by Iran that the conditions for this do not exist, but the situation is still unclear," said chief prosecutor Agneta Isborn Lind.

Lone Callias said the sign of life from the wanted man had come as a big surprise.

"I will have to talk to the prosecutor and see what we can do about this," she said.

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