Libyan Court Again Delays Verdict in Case of Bulgarian Health Workers Accused of Deliberately Infecting Children With HIV
A Libyan court on Dec. 22 postponed its verdict for a second time in the case of six Bulgarian health workers accused of deliberately infecting 393 Libyan children with blood containing HIV, saying that the court needed time to "review the files of evidence further," the AP/New York Times reports. The three-judge panel was to orginally rule on the case in September, but the court postponed the verdict until December. The verdict is now scheduled to be released on Feb. 17. The five nurses and one physician from Bulgaria, along with a Palestinian doctor, are charged with intentionally spreading HIV as part of a foreign intelligence conspiracy to "undermine Libya's security and its role in the Arab world and Africa." Nine Libyans are also charged with negligence in connection with the case. The foreign health workers, who have been detained in Libya since early 1999, have all pled not guilty to the allegations, which could carry the death sentence if they are convicted. Vladimir Sheitanov, the lawyer for the Bulgarians, told the Bulgarian news agency BTA that the delay "creates additional tension and has a bad effect on the health of the defendants." However, a spokesperson for the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry said that the postponement "is encouraging as it means that as of today there is no solid evidence that could warrant the most severe sentences," adding that the delay indicates that the court is "considering all facts seriously and the door remains open for a favorable outcome" (AP/New York Times, 12/23). Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passi, who was in Tripoli on the day of the scheduled verdict, said that he is assured of the "independence" of the Libyan court system and hopes that the verdict will be "just." He added that it is "better to announce a just verdict in this case, instead of a speedy verdict which could be against the interests of the accused" (Agence France-Presse, 12/22).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.