Libyan Virologist Supports Bulgarians in AIDS Trial
February 10, 2004
Libyan virologist Salem Al-Agiri testified Monday in the trial of Bulgarian medics accused of infecting more than 400 Libyan children with HIV that unsanitary conditions at the hospital caused the outbreak, the Bulgarian state news agency reported. Agiri, of the University of Tripoli, was called as a witness for the defense of six Bulgarian medics charged in a Libyan court with deliberately infecting the children as part of a medical experiment.
Agiri said the infections would not have occurred had authorities at the Benghazi city children's hospital taken adequate measures to ensure proper hygiene. Agiri did not directly answer an attorney questioning whether he thought the Bulgarians were responsible for the infections.
Agiri's testimony echoed an earlier conclusion reached by France's Dr. Luc Montagnier, co-discoverer of HIV. Previously, Montagnier had testified that poor hygiene at the Benghazi hospital likely led to the infections, and that they occurred in 1997 -- more than a year before the Bulgarians were hired to work there.
The last hearing for the Bulgarians, who have spent five years in Libyan custody, is set for next Monday. It was not immediately clear when a verdict would be announced. If found guilty, the medics could be sentenced to death. All defendants have pleaded innocent and complained of police torture during interrogations. The European Union, with which Libya wants to mend ties, has urged it to drop the charges.
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.