children who Libyan authorities say were intentionally
infected with the virus that causes AIDS are now being
treated in European hospitals, French and Italian
officials said Thursday.
ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei said he hoped the
move would improve relations with Libya as a court there
deliberates on the case of five Bulgarian nurses and a
Palestinian doctor charged with infecting the children
in the city of Benghazi in the 1990s. The prosecution
of the case has drawn international criticism.
The nurses and
doctor, held in Libya since 1999, were sentenced to death
in 2004, but Libya's supreme court ordered a retrial after
international protests that the proceedings had
been unfair. The defendants denied the charges,
saying they had been tortured to extract confessions.
United States, and human rights groups accused Libya of
concocting the charges to cover up poor hygiene conditions
at its hospitals, which many blame for the infections.
hope that treating the children in European hospitals
''can contribute to creating among the families and Libyan
public opinion a climate more favorable to a solution
in the case...that conforms to the expectations
of the international community.''
Some 150 of the
children are in French hospitals in Paris, Toulouse,
Montpellier, and Strasbourg, and Libya is paying for the
treatment, he said. More than 100 are being treated at
Rome hospitals, and 60 have been at the Meyer
pediatric hospital in Florence since September, said Maria
Jose Caldes, an official at the hospital in Florence.
It was not immediately clear where the others were
Caldes said the
children in Florence are ''in quite good condition'' and
are being treated with antiretroviral drugs, a cocktail of
medicines that helps manage immunity-debilitating
effects in AIDS patients.
The children are
accompanied by their parents and three Libyan doctors
and are staying in Florence and nearby cities. Italian
doctors believe most will be able to return to Libya
by mid December.
have to go home, they have to go to school, [and] they
have to lead their lives,'' said Caldes. ''Only the more
serious cases will stay here longer.'' (AP)
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