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New Libya AIDS trial evidence could exonerate foreign medics

[JURIST] Scientists produced new evidence Wednesday supporting the claim of innocence of five Bulgarian nurses [JURIST report] and one Palestinian doctor accused [JURIST news archive] of infecting over 400 Libyan patients, primarily children, with the HIV virus. An analysis published in Nature [report] of 44 HIV and hepatitis virus samples taken from some of the infected children showed that the strain of HIV with which the children had been infected was already present and spreading locally in the mid-1990s, long before the medics arrived in Libya in 1998. Scientists worked quickly and Nature fast-tracked publication of the report to make this new evidence available before the December 19 verdict in the medics' retrial. An author of the study, however, knew of no plans to submit the data formally to the court.

The six health workers 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] in December 2005 and ordered a retrial. The defendants, detained since 1999, previously argued that the children were infected with the virus before treatment. French Professor Luc Montagnier, the co-discover of the HIV virus, testified in the initial 2004 trial that the infection had spread in the children's hospital before the Bulgarian nurses began their contracts there. The second trial of the healthcare workers concluded [JURIST report] November 4. AP has more. Sofia News Agency has local coverage.

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