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Aids / Hiv: Libya to execute Bulgarian medics

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Libya to execute Bulgarian medics
Source: BBC News
6 May, 2004

Libya has sentenced six Bulgarian medics and a Palestinian doctor to death by firing squad for deliberately infecting some 400 children with HIV.

Prosecutors demanded the death penalty, claiming the accused gave patients HIV in a bid to find an Aids cure.

The medics, who worked at a children's hospital in the city of Benghazi, were arrested five years ago.

Bulgaria's government, which had been lobbying for their release, condemned the "unfair and absurd" verdicts.

Packed court

The Libyan court found the seven health workers guilty of having caused the death of 40 children and of infecting almost 400 others with HIV. Nine Libyans who worked at the same hospital were acquitted.

CONVICTED MEDICS
Kristiana Vulcheva - nurse
Nasya Nenova - nurse
Valentina Siropulo
Valya Chervenyashka - nurse
Snezhana Dimitrova - nurse
Zdravko Georgiev - doctor
Ashraf al-Hajuj - doctor
Source: BTA news agency
The courtroom in Benghazi was surrounded by 100 armed police, Bulgaria's BTA news agency reported.

Inside it was packed to capacity, with 15 foreign diplomats among those attending the session which was the culmination of a trial stopped and started several times over the years.

At one point, the Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, had accused the health workers of acting on orders from the CIA and the Israeli secret service, Mossad.

Libya later rowed back on this allegation.

The five nurses and two doctors had always protested their innocence and said they had been tortured by the police, with daily beatings, sexual assault and electric shocks.

They called expert witnesses, including one of the team which discovered the Aids virus, who said this was an epidemic caused by poor hygiene at the hospital, not by any international conspiracy.

Relatives celebrate

Western diplomats say the prosecutions arose because the authorities simply needed someone to blame for a tragedy which caused outrage in Libya.

Gaddafi's Libya has not executed anyone in nine years
With Col Gaddafi recently moving to improve Libya's international standing, Bulgaria had hoped the court would be lenient.

"I'm shocked by the verdicts...We're not going to accept them," said Bulgarian Justice Minister Anton Stankov.

The government in Sofia is calling for a strong reaction from the international community.

The European Union has already voiced its extreme concern.

Bulgaria's parliamentary speaker, Ognyan Gerdzhikov, said he was confident the death sentences would not be carried out.

"I expect Gaddafi to act like a humanist to win certain political credit, which he needs from public opinion," he told Bulgarian radio.

But relatives of the infected children were celebrating.

"The verdict is fair. What they did is a crime against humanity. They planted a bomb inside our children," Ramdane Ali Mohamed, whose sister died of Aids, told Reuters. 


READ ALSO:

- The House That AIDS Built

- UK firm tried Hiv drug on orphans (The Observer)

- AIDS tots used as ’guinea pigs’ (NY Post)



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