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Libya judge adjourns retrial of Bulgarian nurses for second time

[JURIST] The Libyan retrial of five Bulgarian nurses [JURIST report] and one Palestinian doctor accused of infecting over 400 patients, primarily children, with the HIV virus, resumed Tuesday before presiding judge Mahmoud Haouissa adjourned until June 20, stating that the prosecution and defense both need additional time to prepare evidence and witness lists. Haouissa postponed the retrial once before [JURIST report] in May, saying the lawyers lacked the proper papers to go forth with the case. When the case resumes, the Libyan court will have one hearing per week to avoid tiring the defendants, who have been held in custody for seven years. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pressed the Libyan government [JURIST report] to release the captive nurses in April, saying, "this is a humanitarian case and it is time for them to come home."

The six medics 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. 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, detained since 1999, 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. Reuters has more. The Bulgarian News Network has local coverage.

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