Libya may reconsider death sentences in HIV case
December 08 2004 1:00 AM ET
Libyan foreign minister Abdelrahman Shalgham has announced that his country's government may reconsider the death sentences of five Bulgarian health workers convicted of deliberately infecting more than 400 children with HIV if the children's families receive financial compensation from Bulgaria. A Libyan court in May sentenced the health workers to death in a trial that lasted nearly five years because of repeated delays. "There are three problems at stake: the families of the children who died of AIDS, the sick children, and the Bulgarian nurses," Shalgham said on Sunday. "If the families of the victims are compensated and the sick treated in cooperation with the European Union, then the case of the Bulgarian nurses could be reexamined."
Bulgarian deputy foreign minister Gergana Grancharova said she was pleased that the Libyan government was willing to reconsider the death sentences given to the health workers but noted that "the issue about compensation as a way of buying off the freedom of the Bulgarian medics is not Bulgaria's agenda, considering the fact that compensations mean recognition of guilt in principle."
The health workers were convicted of deliberately infecting more than 400 children with HIV while working at a hospital in Benghazi. Libyan leader Mu'ammar Gadhafi had accused the health workers of collaborating with the CIA and the Israeli secret service to kill the children to destabilize the country, but he eventually backed off that claim. Health experts testified at the health workers' trial that the HIV infections were likely caused by unsanitary conditions at a hospital in Benghazi and also likely occurred before the health workers arrived there.
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