Libya to execute HIV-jab medics

  1. Libya to execute HIV-jab medics

    BENGHAZI, Libya -- A Libyan court has sentenced five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor to death for infecting hundreds of children with the AIDS virus in an attempt to find a cure for the disease.

    Bulgaria condemned the "unfair and absurd" verdicts delivered on Thursday and called for a strong reaction from its Western partners -- the European Union, NATO and the United States. The verdicts will be appealed, defense lawyers said.

    The issue is a hurdle to Libya joining the economic Euro-Mediterranean partnership. Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi promised action in the dispute during his ground-breaking visit to the EU headquarters last week, Reuters said.

    The health workers, detained in early 1999, were convicted of infecting 426 Libyan children at a Benghazi hospital with blood products contaminated with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

    The court in the town of Benghazi sentenced the five female nurses and a male Palestinian doctor to death by firing squad.

    Another Bulgarian doctor, Zdravko Georgiev, was jailed for four years for changing foreign currency on the black market, lawyers said. Court officials had originally said all six Bulgarians received death sentences.

    Dr. Georgiev had also stood trial for infecting patients with AIDS, but the verdict did not mention that charge, and no explanation was given for the change.

    One defence lawyer told Reuters: "The confusion about the sentences came from the way the judge announced the verdicts."

    All six had pleaded innocent, with experts for the defense arguing that poor medical hygiene probably led to the contamination.

    The European Union, Amnesty International and other organizations had criticized the case.

    Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi claimed the medics were tortured while they were in the custody, according to The Associated Press.

    Bulgarians had expected some leniency after Gadhafi's recent efforts to renew ties with the West.

    "I'm shocked by the verdicts. The government's official position is that we're not going to accept them. Such verdicts are unfair and without grounds," Bulgarian Justice Minister Anton Stankov told Reuters in Sofia.

    "We expect a strong reaction from all our partners, especially the European Union, the United States and NATO, who have all put forth efforts to ensure a fair trial," Stankov said.

    In contrast, relatives of the infected children were happy.

    "The verdict is fair. What they did is a crime against humanity. They planted a bomb inside our children," Ramdane Ali Mohamed, whose little sister Hiba died of AIDS, told the news agency.

    Families of the medics were stunned and unwilling to talk to the media. But Bulgarian Parliament Speaker Ognyan Gerdzhikov said he believed the death sentences would not be carried out.

    "First, they can be appealed. Secondly, Libya has not executed death sentences in nine years, and I'd be very surprised if they start now. Thirdly, I expect Gaddafi to act like a humanist to win certain political credit, which he needs from world public opinion," he told national radio.

    Libya has recently emerged from international isolation after scrapping its nuclear arms program in December.

    It also agreed to pay damages to relatives of passengers killed in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish village of Lockerbie and the 1989 bombing of a French airliner.
  2. 6 Comments

  3. by   prmenrs
    wWhat is the source of this story?
  4. by   Dr. Gonzo
    God Bless Libya i hope they dont execute them though they should infect them with HIV. How dare they use those kids as guinea pigs why didnt they experiment on them selves or their kids.
  5. by   BeachNurse
    Quote from prmenrs
    wWhat is the source of this story?
  6. by   BeachNurse
    Quote from Dr. Gonzo
    God Bless Libya i hope they dont execute them though they should infect them with HIV. How dare they use those kids as guinea pigs why didnt they experiment on them selves or their kids.
    I am in the field of HIV research and wondered the same.
  7. by   jax
    Beforse we condemn the Bulgarians, I wouldn't mind hearing their defence.

  8. by   BeachNurse
    426..thats a lot of children to have received contaminated blood. That's a lot of contaminated blood-I can't help but think it was collected on purpose for reasons of these people's insane idea of "research".