MEP Calls on Libyan Leader To Pardon Medical Workers Sentenced to Death in Libyan HIV Infection Case
Geoffrey van Orden, member of the European Parliament and E.P. rapporteur on Bulgaria, on Tuesday at a joint news conference called on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to pardon the five Bulgarian nurses and Palestinian doctor sentenced to death for allegedly intentionally infecting hundreds of Libyan children with HIV, the Bulgarian News Agency reports (Bulgarian News Agency, 1/3). The six medical workers in May 2004 were sentenced to death by firing squad for allegedly infecting 426 children through contaminated blood products at Al Fateh Children's Hospital in Benghazi, Libya. They also were ordered to pay a total of $1 million to the families of the HIV-positive children. The Libyan Supreme Court in December 2005 overturned the medical workers' convictions and ordered a retrial in a lower court. A court in Tripoli, Libya, last month convicted the health workers and sentenced them to death. The health workers say they are innocent of the charges, claiming that they were forced to confess and that they were tortured by Libyan officials during interrogations (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/2). Bulgarian officials on Friday called for a speedy appeal for the medical workers, the Chicago Tribune reports (Chicago Tribune, 12/30/06).
The European Parliament "must avoid the danger of leveling threats," van Orden said, adding that "they would hardly be useful, but we have politico-economic means in our tool kit to exert pressure" on Libya. He said that although the trial is not over, Gaddafi should "exercise his powers" and "release the Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian doctor urgently and as soon as possible" (Bulgarian News Agency, 1/3). Gadhafi on Friday said he rejects "Western intervention and pressure" in the trial and stressed "the independence of the Libyan judicial system." He added, "Those who commit a crime must accept the consequences" (AFP/Yahoo! News, 12/30/06). Catherine Guy-Quint, co-chair of the E.U.-Bulgaria Joint Parliamentary Committee, at the press conference on Tuesday said the release of the nurses is a "real battle" for the European Parliament, adding, "The trial has no leg to stand on." Atanas Paparizov, co-chair of committee, at the press conference said, "The trial is unfair, and we have the right to express our opinion clearly and openly" (Bulgarian News Agency, 1/3).