[JURIST] US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice [official profile] on Friday urged Libyan authorities to release five Bulgarian nurses who are accused of infecting over 400 patients, primarily children, with the HIV virus. The medics have been imprisoned since 1999 and are awaiting the start of their second trial, scheduled to begin in May [JURIST report]. The five Bulgarians, along with a Palestinian doctor, were first convicted in May 2004 and sentenced to death [JURIST reports] for deliberately infecting the children, but the Libyan Supreme Court overturned the convictions [JURIST report] last December and ordered a retrial.
While in Bulgaria Friday, Rice said that "the Bulgarian nurses have been too long in captivity" and called for their release, saying "this is a humanitarian case and it is time for them to come home." Bulgaria and its allies, including the US and the European Union, contend the nurses are innocent and maintain that their confessions were coerced through torture. The six health workers previously argued that the children were infected with the disease prior to treatment by the accused. Nine police officers and one doctor were acquitted [JURIST report] of torturing the health workers [HRW report] last year.
AP has more.