Libya To Boycott Trade, Investment With Bulgaria Over Dispute Involving Nurses Who Allegedly Infected Children With HIV
Libya will impose a trade and investment embargo on Bulgaria because of its government's refusal to pay compensation to families of more than 400 HIV-positive children allegedly infected by five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor, an unnamed Libyan government official said on Tuesday, Reuters reports. The official also said that the boycott is a response to "the Bulgarian government's campaign to tarnish Libya's image," Reuters reports (Sarrar, Reuters, 4/13). The Libyan Supreme Court last month opened a hearing on the case of the health care workers, who in May 2004 were sentenced to death by firing squad for allegedly infecting the children through contaminated blood products. The workers, who have been detained in the country since 1999, also were ordered to pay a total of $1 million to the families of the HIV-positive children. Libyan Leader Moammar Kadafi has accused the health workers of taking orders from the CIA and the Israeli secret service to kill the children in order to destabilize the country. However, many observers believe the children were infected because of Libya's failure to screen blood products adequately and poor sterilization practices at the hospital where the children were infected. The Libyan government previously has said it would free the nurses if Bulgaria paid compensation equal to the amount Libya paid to relatives of the victims of the 1988 plane bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, which reportedly was carried out by Libyan secret service agents. However, Bulgaria so far has declined to pay compensation (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/12). At least 40 of the 426 children who allegedly were infected at the hospital have died of AIDS-related illnesses, according to Reuters (Reuters, 4/13). Bulgarian officials at the country's embassy in Tripoli, Libya, on Wednesday sent a note to the Libyan Foreign Ministry asking for additional information on the official's statement, the Sofia News Agency reports (Sofia News Agency, 4/13).
Thirteen unnamed Libyan doctors recently posted on a Libya opposition Web site a letter claiming that medics and security officials linked to Kadafi deliberately infected the children, the Sofia News Agency reports. The doctors say they can provide "irrefutable evidence" absolving the Bulgarian health workers on the condition of protection for themselves and their families, according to the Sofia News Agency (Sofia News Agency, 4/12). In addition, Idris Laga, chair of the Association of Relatives of Children Infected With AIDS, said recently at an HIV/AIDS conference in Homs, Libya, that about half of the family members of the more than 400 HIV-positive Libyan children oppose any negotiations with the Bulgarian government regarding the case (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/12).