E.U. Asks Libyan Leader Kadafi To Release Bulgarian Health Care Workers on Trial for Allegedly Infecting Children With HIV
Bulgaria on Tuesday thanked the European Union for asking Libyan Leader Moammar Kadafi to release six Bulgarian health care workers who are on trial for allegedly deliberately infecting more than 400 children with HIV through contaminated blood products, AFP/EUbusiness reports. Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy said that European Commission President Romano Prodi "clearly submitted the Bulgarian case to the Libyan leader," who was in Brussels on Tuesday on his first visit to Europe in 15 years, according to AFP/EUbusiness (AFP/EUbusiness, 4/27). Kadafi had accused the six Bulgarian workers, as well as one Palestinian worker, of taking orders from the CIA and the Israeli secret service to kill Libyan children in order to destabilize the country. However, some European governments and human rights groups say that the Libyan Health Ministry failed to screen blood products adequately and allowed poor sterilization practices at Al Fateh Children's Hospital in Benghazi, where the children were infected. The health care workers have been detained in Libya since early 1999 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/16).
Improving European Ties
Prodi said he was convinced that Libya soon would settle "open issues" with Bulgaria, which is a candidate to join the European Union, Reuters reports (Moller/Taylor, Reuters, 4/27). Passy said he thought that the verdict in the Bulgarians' trial would be a "key element" in whether Libya is allowed to join an E.U. partnership agreement with Mediterranean Basin countries, according to AFP/EUbusiness. A ruling in the case is expected on May 6, according to AFP/EUbusiness (AFP/EUbusiness, 4/27). Kadafi allegedly said at a news conference in Brussels that the delay of the verdicts in the case had been in the best interest of the Bulgarians, the Sofia Morning News reports. Passy agreed, saying, "I can only imagine what the verdicts would have been in the summer of 2001," according to the Morning News (Sofia Morning News, 4/27). A prosecutor in the case is seeking the death penalty for the health care workers, all of whom have pleaded not guilty. The Bulgarian media has predicted that if sentenced to death, Kadafi may pardon them as part of his efforts to improve relations with Europe (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/16).