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Bulgarian medics
cleared of defamation charges

Bulgarian medics
cleared of defamation charges

Five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor convicted of infecting about 400 Libyan children with HIV and facing the death penalty were cleared Sunday of defamation charges in a related case.

The proceedings in the HIV case against the six medical workers have generated international criticism of Libya, including responses from the United States and European Union. The medical workers, who deny infecting the children, were condemned to death in December at the end of a retrial.

Their acquittal in the defamation case Sunday raised hopes among supporters, with the Bulgarian president calling it ''a positive step and a good sign.''

''This judgment gives hopes for the overall fair outcome of the trial against the Bulgarian medics,'' President Georgi Parvanov's office said in a press release.

The defamation case stemmed from their retrial last year, when the workers said the confessions used by the prosecution had been extracted under torture and named a Libyan police officer, Jumaa al-Mishri, and a doctor, Abdul-Majid al-Shoul.

Al-Mishri and al-Shoul filed for defamation, claiming $4 million in compensation.

The court did not explain its ruling to acquit the workers of the civil and criminal defamation charges.

In the HIV case, the medical workers' lawyers called expert witnesses who testified that the virus was rampant in the Benghazi hospital where the children were infected before the workers began working there in the late 1990s. (AP)

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