Bulgaria to Press Charges Against Libyan Police Officers in HIV Infection Case
February 1, 2007
A Bulgarian senior prosecutor on Wednesday said the country within four months will bring charges against 11 Libyan police officers for allegedly torturing five Bulgarian nurses into confessing to allegedly intentionally infecting hundreds of Libyan children with HIV, Reuters reports (Reuters, 1/31). The five nurses and a Palestinian doctor 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. A court in Tripoli, Libya, last month convicted the health workers and sentenced them to death. 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. The European Parliament on Jan. 18 in a resolution called on European Union member states to review their trade relations with Libya and to urge the country to release the medical workers (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/30). A Libyan court in June 2005 acquitted nine police officers who had been charged with torturing the medical workers and forcing them to confess (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/9/05). Sofia, Bulgaria, prosecutor Nikolay Kokinov said the charges would allow him to begin a judicial investigation, which could lead to a trial. "After completing the necessary police investigation, we believe there is enough evidence proving a crime," Kokinov said. Othman al-Bizanti, a Libyan lawyer representing the five nurses, on Monday said that the nurses have been accused of slandering the police officers with the torture claims and that they will be questioned on Feb. 11. Bulgarian chief prosecutor Boris Velchev said the slander charges are "an obscenity," adding, "The evidence that we have points out that the nurses were indeed tortured. Nobody in Bulgaria has any doubts about that." Trayan Markovski, coordinator of the nurses' Bulgarian defense team, said the questioning on the slander charges is a "good opportunity for the truth to be heard in Libya" (Simeonova, AFP/France 24, 1/30).
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