E.U. Resolution Calls on Libya To Release Medical Workers Sentenced to Death in Libyan HIV Infection Case
The European Parliament on Thursday in a resolution called on European Union member states to review their trade relations with Libya and to urge Libya to release six medical workers sentenced to death for allegedly intentionally infecting hundreds of Libyan children with HIV, Reuters South Africa reports. The resolution called on E.U. members to review "the common policy of engagement with Libya in all relevant fields." Bulgarian E.P. member Philip Dimitrov said the resolution sends a "clear signal of intent to Libya from the E.U. and with the support of the member states and the European Commission, it will show the E.U.'s solidarity on the matter" (Ennis, Reuters South Africa, 1/18). The five Bulgarian nurses and Palestinian doctor 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, 1/11). According to Reuters South Africa, the case has negatively affected Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's efforts to renew the country's ties with Western nations. In addition, some reports have said Gaddafi would release the medical workers if a Libyan who is in a Scottish jail for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing were released and if Libya received financial compensation for the alleged intentional HIV infections. Meglena Kuneva, E.U. consumer affairs commissioner, said there would not be a negotiation (Reuters South Africa, 1/18). "This has nothing to do with the Lockerbie case," Kuneva said, adding, "There isn't the slightest proof that these people are guilty, and the E.U. will not allow any other case to be used as a leverage." Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ivailo Kalfin last week said the medical workers likely will be in jail for one more year during an appeals process, adding that Bulgaria will increase international pressure if an appeal is unsuccessful. The E.U. on Thursday is expected to vote on the resolution (Ennis, Reuters Health, 1/17). In addition, Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi on Wednesday said that he plans to urge Gaddafi to release the nurses at a Jan. 27 meeting of the African Union (Reuters, 1/17).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.