Libyan Court Sentences Medical Workers Accused of Infecting Libyan Children With HIV to Death; Defense to Appeal Ruling
December 19, 2006
A court in Tripoli, Libya, on Tuesday convicted five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor of intentionally infecting hundreds of Libyan children with HIV and sentenced them to death, the AP/USA Today reports (El-Deeb/Thayer, AP/USA Today, 12/19). The six medical workers in May 2004 were sentenced to death by firing squad for allegedly infecting 426 children through contaminated blood products at Al Fateh Children's Hospital in Benghazi, Libya. They also were ordered to pay a total of $1 million to the families of the HIV-positive children. The Libyan Supreme Court in December 2005 overturned the medical workers' convictions and ordered a retrial in a lower court. The health workers say they are innocent of the charges, claiming that they were forced to confess and that they were tortured by Libyan officials during interrogations. At the retrial, the prosecution reiterated its call for the health workers to be executed. New genetic evidence published earlier in the month in the journal Nature found that the HIV outbreak at the hospital began up to three years before the medical workers arrived at the facility. The evidence also showed that the children were infected with a strain of HIV that is common in West Africa. According to the study's researchers, many Libyan immigrants come from the region. The evidence suggests that the HIV-positive children were exposed to the virus because of insufficient infection control at the hospital, which likely involved improper equipment sterilization before injections (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/14). According to the AP/USA Today, the presiding judge, Mahmoud Haouissa, took seven minutes to confirm the presence of the accused medical workers and read out the verdict and sentence in the "longest and most politicized court process in modern Libyan history" (AP/USA Today, 12/19). Haouissa did not say how the death sentence would be carried out (Ghanmi, Reuters, 12/19).
Next Steps, Implications
New Genetic Evidence That Medical Workers Did Not Infect Libyan Children With HIV Published in Journal
This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.