Health Workers Accused of Deliberately Infecting Libyan Children With HIV Say They Were Tortured in Prison
The seven Bulgarian and Palestinian health workers who are accused of deliberately infecting 393 Libyan children with HIV have received "brutal treatment" during their detention in Libya, the London Sunday Times reports (Leahy, Sunday Times, 11/17). The health workers have been detained in Libya since early 1999 on charges that they deliberately infected children with HIV while working at a hospital in Benghazi, Libya (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/23). Dr. Luc Montagnier, the French scientist who co-discovered HIV, earlier this year visited the hospital and concluded that the outbreak of HIV at the facility was likely caused by "basic medical blunders," such as inadequate equipment, unskilled staff and the "systematic reuse" of unsterilized needles. However, the workers have signed confessions linking themselves with the infections, and the confessions are prosecutors' "best evidence" in the trial. The defendants, who have been moved from prison to a house on the outskirts of Tripoli as they await their trial, said that the confessions were "extracted" from them after "months of horrific torture" at the hands of Libyan authorities. One of the nurses claimed that she was tortured for three months with electric shocks and cables, and another of the workers said she was beaten. If found guilty, the workers will likely be executed, the Sunday Times reports. Even if they are acquitted, they could still face other charges (Sunday Times, 11/17).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.