Libyan minister says compassion needed for HIV-infected children
June 15 2004 12:00 AM ET
Libyan prime minister Shokri Ghanem says Western countries criticizing the death sentences given to six Bulgarian health workers and a Palestinian doctor for allegedly deliberately infecting more than 400 children with HIV should instead "show compassion" for the infected children. A five-judge panel in May sentenced the workers to death for allegedly infecting the children with HIV at a Benghazi hospital as part of experiments to find a cure for AIDS, but health experts had testified that the infections occurred due to poor sanitation and the reuse of medical equipment. Libyan leader Mu'ammar Gadhafi had initially claimed the infections were part of a joint CIA-Israeli intelligence effort to undermine stability in the country but later backed off the claim.
Ghanem, speaking at a symposium sponsored by Boston-based Tufts University Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, said Western nations should show "compassion so the families of the victims at least will feel that people are sharing with them the suffering inflicted on them." He declined to elaborate on his comments.
European governments and human rights groups are pushing for the convictions to be overturned during the appeals process, which began automatically when the death sentences were announced. It's not clear when court proceedings will begin in the appeals. The health workers were jailed for nearly five years before the first trial concluded, and they complained of being tortured while in captivity.