Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Libya sentences medics to death


A Libyan court has sentenced five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor to death for knowingly infecting hundreds of Libyan children with HIV.
The medics have been in detention since 1999, during which time 52 of the 426 infected children have died of Aids.

The nurses and doctor were sentenced to death in 2004, but the Supreme Court quashed the ruling after protests over the fairness of the trial.

The defendants say they are being made scapegoats for unhygienic hospitals.

Defence lawyers said the medics would appeal against the new verdict, expected to be the final appeal allowed under Libyan law.

The defence team told the court that the HIV virus was present in the hospital, in the town of Benghazi, before the nurses began working there in 1998.

Western nations had backed the medics' case, calling for their release.

Bulgarian officials quickly condemned the verdicts. Foreign Minister Ivailo Kalfin described the ruling as "deeply disappointing".

EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini expressed his shock at the verdict and urged the Libyan authorities to review the decision.

But the BBC's Rana Jawad in Tripoli, says it is highly unlikely that Libya's leadership will become involved in the case, at least in public.

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