Foreign medics appeal death sentence in Libya AIDS case

[JURIST] An appeal was filed Saturday in the case of five Bulgarian nurses [JURIST news archive] and one Palestinian doctor convicted and sentenced to death [JURIST report] by a Libyan court for knowingly infecting over 400 Libyan patients, primarily children, with the HIV virus. Othman Bizanti, lawyer for the accused Bulgarian nurses, lodged the appeal days after counsel for the Palestinian doctor did the same. The medics were sentenced to death in their second trial on December 19 after the initial guilty verdict was overturned by the Libyan Supreme Court in 2005 and a retrial ordered [JURIST reports]. The appeal before Libya's Supreme Court could be the last appeal permitted under the nation's law, though Libya's Supreme Judicial Council has the power to overturn the rulings of the Supreme Court. Bizanti expects the Supreme Court to rule by mid-May.

Bulgaria and its allies, including the US [JURIST report] and the European Union, contend that the nurses are innocent and have said they have been tortured into admitting guilt [HRW report]. Last month a Bulgarian prosecutor announced plans to file charges [JURIST report] against eleven Libyan police officers accused of carrying out the torture; the investigation may lead to a trial in Bulgaria. According to international health experts [JURIST report], poor sanitary conditions in the hospital caused the virus to spread before the nurses even arrived. Libyan leaders have recently indicated that the medics might be released in exchange for compensation [JURIST report] of 10 million euros for each of the victims' families. Bulgaria has so far refused the deal, which it views as an admission of guilt. BBC News has more.

 

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