Verdict in Libyan AIDS trial delayed until May 6
April 17 2004 12:00 AM ET
A court in Benghazi, Libya, that had been expected to issue a verdict in the trial of seven health care workers charged with deliberately infecting children with HIV has instead postponed its decision until May 6. The delay occurred because one of the judges was ill, according to court officials. All the defendants--five Bulgarian nurses, a Bulgarian doctor, and a Palestinian doctor--have pleaded not guilty to the charges. Libyan prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for all of the men and women accused. The trial began in February 2000. AIDS experts, including HIV codiscoverer Luc Montagnier, testified that the 393 children infected with HIV at the Benghazi hospital were likely infected because of poor sanitation and unsafe medical practices there. Montagnier also testified that the infections occurred before the health workers arrived at the hospital. Prosecutors allege that the health workers deliberately infected the children as part of unethical research or through a U.S.-Israeli plan to destabilize the country. The health workers have complained of torture while jailed in Libya, including being raped and receiving electrical shocks. Bulgaria and the European Union have demanded that the seven--who have been detained for five years--be allowed to go home.