Libyan Prosecutor Demands Death Penalty for Bulgarian Medical Workers Accused of Infecting Children with HIV
A Libyan prosecutor has "demanded" the death penalty for six Bulgarians and one Palestinian doctor accused of deliberately infecting 393 Libyan children with HIV, according to reports from Bulgaria's Darik radio. "The prosecutor read the indictment, which said the infection was part of a conspiracy of foreign intelligence forces aimed at undermining the security of Libya and its role in the Arab world," the state radio reported, adding that the prosecutor "demanded death for the six Bulgarian medics and the Palestinian." The health care workers, who have been detained in Tripoli since February of 1999, plead not guilty, and their lawyer, Vladimir Sheitanov, asked for their acquittal, saying the charges were "groundless" (Reuters, 6/16). Othmane al-Bizanthi, another attorney for the defendants, said the infections were the result of "poor hygiene in the [Benghazi children's] hospital, where syringes are used over and over again by the Libyan staff" (Associated Press, 6/18). Sheitanov added that the confessions given by several of the Bulgarians were "not legitimate proof" because they were "extorted by use of torture." Two of the nurses told the court at a June 2 hearing that they had been tortured while in custody. Bulgarian officials have "voiced concern" about the fairness of the proceedings. The court denied Sheitanov's request to allow expert medical testimony and the government has denied the accusations of torture and bias (Reuters, 6/16). Bulgarian President Petur Stoyanov said he "keep[s] thinking that there are grounds and possibilities for the gravest charges against the Bulgarian citizens to be dismissed" (BTA/BBC Monitoring. The court is expected to announce a verdict on Sept. 22 (Associated Press, 6/18).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.