The European Union has urged Libya to drop charges against six Bulgarians facing the death penalty for allegedly infecting more than 400 children with the virus that causes AIDS, Bulgaria's ambassador to Libya said Tuesday. The Dutch and U.K. ambassadors handed Libyan prime minister Shukri Ghanim a note Saturday asking that the charges be scrapped as unsubstantiated and that the defendants be freed, ambassador Zdravko Velev told state radio. The next court session in the coastal city of Benghazi is scheduled for January 26.
A Libyan prosecutor has demanded the death penalty for all six--five nurses and a doctor--accusing them of intentionally infecting 426 children with HIV at the Al Fateh hospital in Benghazi. The Bulgarians have pleaded not guilty. Luc Montagnier, the French codiscoverer of the AIDS virus, has told the court that poor hygiene at the hospital likely led to the contamination and that it happened in 1997--more than a year before the Bulgarians were hired to work there. But a commission of court-appointed Libyan doctors rejected the Western expert's testimony and said the Bulgarians willfully infected the children with the virus through blood transfusions.