Libya sets date for medics ruling

Court to rule on appeal of Bulgarian nurses convicted of infecting children with HIV.

    Judges from Libya's supreme court are due to reach their verdict on the medical case by July 11 [AFP]

    "A statement on a deal between the families of the children suffering from Aids and the European Union will be announced on Friday," said the official from the foundation run by Seif al-Islam.

    Compensation deal

    The official said the two parties agreed on a Friday announcement following a visit to Libya last week of two European diplomats.

    Their deal is independent of a final appeal launched on Wednesday in a Tripoli court.


    February 1999- 19 Bulgarian medical workers are detained in an investigation into how children in a hospital in Benghazi became infected with HIV. 13 are later freed.

    2000 - Trial opens against six Bulagarians, a Palestinian doctor and nine Libyans. The medics claim the confessions at the centre of the case wre extracted through torture.

    September 2003 - Luc Montagnier, a French doctor and Aids expert, testifies the epidemic broke out the year before the Bulgarians arrived.

    May 2004 - Five Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian doctor are found guilty and sentenced to death. The Bulgarian doctor is released and nine Libyans acquitted.

    June 2005 - Nine Libyan policemen and a doctor are acquitted of torturing the medics.

    December 2005 - The supreme court overturns the death sentences, sending case back to a lower court for retrial.

    January 2006 - Victims of the families demand $5.9 billion in compensation.

    December 2006 - After a seven month retrial, the six medics are again found guilty and sentenced to death.

    January 2007 - The son of Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, says the six will not be executed.

    May 2007- Charges against the six of defaming a Libyan policeman and doctor by accusing them of torture are dismissed.

    Judge Fathi Dhan earlier told a court in Tripoli, the Libyan capital, that the supreme court would announce its decision on July 11.

    The court is widely expected to uphold the death sentences, a move that would leave the fate of the medics in the hands of Libya's high judicial council, a government-led body which has the power to commute sentences.

    Political analysts say the council would be likely to let the nurses return to Bulgaria if a deal to compensate the families of the HIV-infected children can be reached.

    "I ask you, the just court, to restore freedom to these women who have been deprived of it for eight years," Plamen Yalnazov, a Bulgarian lawyer, told the court, which heard arguments from both defence and prosecution lawyers.

    Seif al-Islam has said he expected compensation for the infected childrens' families to be worked out between the Bulgarian government and the EU.

    "Immediately after the verdict, we will begin to work... on a  package [of measures] with a view to a solution," Islam told Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper.


    Bulgaria said on Tuesday it had granted citizenship to Ashraf Alhajouj, the Palestinian doctor, a decision that could help bring him out of Libya if the verdicts are eventually commuted under a possible compensation deal.

    "In case of a favourable development in the case, he can be brought back to Bulgaria with the nurses under the legal agreement with Libya," Ivailo Kalfin, the Bulgarian foreign minister, told reporters in Bulgaria, referring to a long-standing agreement which allows for prisoner exchanges.

    The five nurses, Nasya Nenova, Snezhana Dimitrova, Valentina Siropolu, Christiana Valcheva and Valia Cherveniashka, worked along with Alhajouj at a hospital in the country's second city of Benghazi where the injections occurred in the late 1990s.

    Talks between the EU and the association of families resumed last month with both sides citing progress and saying they hoped for a deal soon. The association wants around $14m for each family.

    Bulgaria has refused to pay, saying it would be an admission of guilt.

    It has set up a solidarity fund along with the EU and the US to provide medical aid and financial support to the children and their relatives.

    The medics were first arrested in February 1999 and sentenced to death in May 2004 after being convicted of infecting 438 children with HIV-tainted blood.

    The accused have denied the charges saying they were tortured and foreign health experts, led by the Aids virus discoverer Luc Montagnier, have said the epidemic in Benghazi, Libya's second city, was probably the result of poor hygiene.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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