French attorneys will represent nurses sentenced to die in Libyan HIV case
January 27 2005 12:00 AM ET
A team of French lawyers from the international aid group Lawyers Without Borders will travel next week to Libya to represent five Bulgarian nurses convicted of and sentenced to die for deliberately infecting more than 400 children with HIV. The nurses and a Palestinian doctor have been held prisoner in the country since 1999 when they were accused of deliberately infecting the children in a Benghazi hospital as part of an effort led by the United States and Israel to destabilize the country. During their trial, AIDS experts, including HIV codiscoverer Luc Montagnier, testified that the infections occurred at the hospital before the international health workers arrived and were likely due to poor sanitary conditions and unsafe practices at the facility. The French lawyers will help with the nurses' appeals of the death sentences they received in May 2004 in the case. "The participation of the French lawyers will widen the opportunity for their defense," said Bulgaria's justice minister Anton Stankov. The nurses also say they were tortured while imprisoned, and have filed a civil lawsuit against the Libyan guards who allegedly tortured them. The French attorneys also are expected to help with that case.