Libya Will Not Execute Six Health Workers Accused of Intentionally Infecting Children With HIV, Kadafi’s Son Says
The son of Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi on Wednesday said that the government will not execute five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor who have been convicted of intentionally infecting hundreds of children in the country with HIV, the New York Times reports (Smith, New York Times, 12/9). A five-judge panel of a Libyan court in May sentenced to death by firing squad the health workers, who have been detained in Libya since 1999 and have been accused of deliberately infecting more than 400 children with HIV through contaminated blood products. The health workers also were ordered to pay a total of $1 million to the families of the children, 43 of whom have died. Kadafi accused the health workers 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 health care workers were employed and where the children were infected. Two of the workers and the Palestinian doctor have said that they had been tortured into making confessions. During their trial, Dr. Luc Montagnier, co-discoverer of HIV, testified that he believed the children were infected in 1997, more than a year before the Bulgarians were hired (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/7). Seif al-Islam el-Kadafi, Moammar's son, on Wednesday said, "No one is going to execute anyone." He added that the Libyan government is expected over the next two months to pass a new law limiting the use of capital punishment to "a small number of crimes," according to the Times. Although Kadafi's son holds "no official position" in the government, he heads an organization that is helping to negotiate a resolution in the case and is "believed to speak with the backing of his father," the Times reports.
Kadafi said Libya might seek to extradite the Bulgarian nurses to Bulgaria but did not say what might be done with the Palestinian doctor. Kadafi also suggested that in exchange for the extradition of the workers, the country might ask for the extradition of a Libyan man serving a life sentence in Scotland for the 1988 crash of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, according to the Times. In addition, Libyan officials have said that a re-examination of the health care workers' death sentences would depend on Bulgaria paying compensation to the families of the HIV-positive children. However, Bulgaria has refused to pay any compensation, saying that doing so would acknowledge guilt on the part of the health workers, the Times reports. "I think we have to extradite them at a certain stage because we have an extradition treaty with Bulgaria," Kadafi said, adding, "But first we have to satisfy the families, compensation and a medical solution long term for their children" (New York Times, 12/9). Ramadan al-Fituri, director of the association representing the HIV-positive children, on Wednesday said that Libya would drop the case against the health workers if Bulgaria pays about $13.3 million for every child infected with HIV, AFP/Mail and Guardian reports. Fituri on Tuesday said that the charges against the six health workers would be dropped if the children receive treatment at medical centers in Europe and all "necessary medicines," a new specialized hospital in Benghazi is built in Libya and "adequate compensation" is paid to the children's families, according to AFP/Mail and Guardian (AFP/Mail and Guardian, 12/9).