Verdict Expected Saturday in Case of Bulgarian Medics Accused of Intentionally Spreading HIV in Libya
A Libyan court is expected on Saturday to announce its verdict in the trial of six Bulgarian health workers and a Palestinian doctor accused of intentionally infecting 393 Libyan children with HIV, Reuters reports. The defendants, who worked at a children's hospital in Benghazi, were detained in early 1999 before being put on trial on June 2. Bulgarian Justice Minister Anton Stankov told Reuters he expects "heavy sentences, including the death penalty, given [the] heavy charges" against the medics. According to the indictment, the medics deliberately infected children as part of a conspiracy by foreign intelligence agencies to "undermine Libyan security and its role in the Arab world." Stankov added that the defendants will appeal if the Bulgarians are convicted. "We consider (the court session on) Sept. 22 merely as a stage in the trial which will continue," he added. Osman Byzanti, the Libyan lawyer for the defendants, said an appeal could take an undetermined amount of time under the multi-tiered Libyan court system. Local court rulings can be overruled by the Court of Appeal, and in death penalty cases, defendants can lodge an additional appeal with the Supreme Court, which has the final say, he said, adding that a delay of the verdict is still possible due to "procedural wrangling." A spokesperson for the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry said that the defendants' "hopes are pinned" on the participation of Seif al-Islam, the son of Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi, who earlier this month had been invited to attend the trial as an observer. "For us it is very important that he has expressed a positive attitude," the spokesperson said (Sabeva, Reuters, 9/20).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.