Libyan Supreme Court Delays Ruling on Bulgarian Nurses Accused of Infecting Children With HIV
The Libyan Supreme Court on Tuesday delayed until Jan. 31 a ruling on the appeal of five Bulgarian nurses who were sentenced to death for allegedly infecting more than 400 Libyan children with HIV, the AP/CBC News reports (El-Deeb, AP/CBC News, 11/15). The nurses, along with a Palestinian physician, were sentenced to death by firing squad in May 2004 for allegedly infecting the children through contaminated blood products. They also were ordered to pay a total of $1 million to the families of the HIV-positive children. Many HIV/AIDS experts say that the infections likely are the result of the Libyan Health Ministry's failure to screen blood products adequately and poor sterilization practices at Al Fateh Children's Hospital in Benghazi, Libya, where the children were infected (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/11). According to Mohamed al-Maghribi, an attorney representing the children and their families, the government requested the delay to organize its case and provide new evidence. Libya is involved in the case as a third party, contesting the earlier ruling, which said the government is required to pay the victims because it is a public health issue (Ghanmi, Reuters, 11/15). European Union External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said, "The postponement of the Supreme Court's judgment is a useful step, and we are counting on the Libyan judicial system to ensure that justice is done." She added that "new techniques and new information have become available to verify the charges against the medical staff" (Agence France-Presse, 11/15). More than 100 relatives of the children protested outside the court, clashing with police after a female protester allegedly was pushed to the ground (AP/CBC News, 11/15). Ramadan al-Fituri, a spokesperson for the parents, said, "We will insist to the Libyan government that the death sentences against the Bulgarian nurses be carried out" (Bulgarian News Agency, 11/15).
NPR's "All Things Considered" on Friday reported on the case. The segment includes comments from Vladimir Chukov, professor of Arabic Studies at Sofia University; Lilly Marinkova, a journalist with Bulgarian National Radio; Antoanetta Ouzounova, daughter of Valya Chervenyashka, one of the imprisoned nurses; and Dimitar Tsanchev, spokesperson for the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Martin, "All Things Considered," NPR, 11/11). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.