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Libya court postpones foreign AIDS medics slander trial

[JURIST] A Libyan court Sunday postponed for the second time the criminal defamation trial of six foreign medics [JURIST news archive] accused of slandering three Libyan police agents and a Libyan doctor. Five Bulgarian nurses and one Palestinian doctor were sentenced to death [JURIST report] in December for deliberately infecting 426 children with the HIV virus. The medics have maintained that they were tortured [Human Rights Watch report] by Libyan police officers into admitting guilt, and those claims prompted the slander charges. The police officers and Libyan doctor were acquitted of the torture charges in June 2005. Judge Salem Hamrouni delayed the trial until April 22 to give an addition to the Bulgarian defense team adequate time to prepare. A Libyan prosecutor seeks the maximum six-year prison sentence and financial compensation from the accused medics.

The defense team was already granted a two-week postponement [JURIST report] earlier this month. In early March the Secretary of the Libyan Foreign Affairs Committee [official website, in Arabic] Suleiman Shahoumi indicated that the medics will not be executed [JURIST news report]. The medics were imprisoned in Libya in 1999, but say they are innocent and are being scapegoated for unsanitary conditions in the Benghazi hospital where they worked. International medical and human rights groups have vigorously criticized Libya's treatment of the prisoners. Reuters has more.

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