Libya: Six sentenced to death for infecting kids with HIV

A court convicted five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor of deliberately infecting 400 children with virus.

doctor accused hiv 88 (photo credit:)
doctor accused hiv 88
(photo credit: )
A court convicted five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor of deliberately infecting 400 children with the HIV virus and condemned them all to death on Tuesday. The accused have the right to appeal to the Supreme Court. The presiding judge, Mahmoud Hawissa, read out the verdict in a seven-minute hearing in a Tripoli court at the end of the defendants' second trial. The six defendants, detained for nearly seven years, had previously been convicted and condemned to death, but Libyan judges granted them a retrial after international protests over the fairness of the proceedings. Bulgaria contends the children were infected by unhygienic practices at their Libyan hospital. The long trial of the six foreign medical workers has become a bone of contention in Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's efforts to rebuild ties with the West. Europe and the United States have called for their release, indicating that future relations with Libya would be affected by Tuesday's verdict. But Libyans strongly supported a conviction. Some 50 relatives of the infected children - about 50 of whom have already died of AIDS - waited outside the court early Tuesday morning, holding poster-sized pictures of their children and bearing placards that read "Death for the children killers" and "HIV made in Bulgaria." When the Supreme Court ordered a retrial in December 2005, friends and relatives rioted in Benghazi - the Libyan city where the children were infected in a state hospital. Bulgarians will be extremely disappointed by Tuesday's verdict. Hundreds of people staged peaceful protests in support of the five nurses in Bulgaria on Monday. Europe, the United States and international rights groups have accused Libya of prosecuting the six foreign staff as scapegoats for dirty conditions at the Benghazi children's hospital. Luc Montagnier - the French doctor who was a co-discoverer of HIV - testified in the first trial that the deadly virus was active in the hospital before the Bulgarian nurses began their contracts there in 1998.