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Libya top court sets date for foreign AIDS medics verdict

[JURIST] The Libyan Supreme Court announced Wednesday it will rule on the appeal of six foreign medics [JURIST news archive] in three weeks. The five Bulgarian nurses and one Palestinian doctor were convicted [JURIST report] last year of knowingly infecting over 400 Libyan patients with the HIV virus. Analysts say that the court, which heard the medics' appeal [JURIST report] this week, is expected to uphold the convictions and refer the case to the High Judicial Council, a government body that has the authority to amend or overturn acts of the judiciary. Observers say that the Libyan government is likely to overturn the convictions if western states agree to its demands to provide medical expenses and financial compensation for the patients. Libya has previously demanded up to €10 million euros [JURIST report] (approximately $13 million) for each infected patient. Also on Tuesday, the Bulgarian government announced it has granted the Palestinian doctor Bulgarian citizenship so that he will be included in any settlement. Bulgaria, the EU and the US have been involved in negotiations with Libya but have previously rejected Libya's proposal, fearing it will amount to an admission of guilt.

The six medics have been imprisoned in Libya [JURIST news archive] since 1999 but have consistently maintained their innocence, saying that they are being scapegoated for unsanitary conditions in the Libyan hospitals where they worked. 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]. 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]. BBC News has more. Reuters has additional coverage.

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