Medical Workers Sentenced to Death in Libyan HIV Infection Case Plead Not Guilty in Slander Hearing
The five Bulgarian nurses and Palestinian doctor sentenced to death for allegedly intentionally infecting hundreds of Libyan children with HIV on Sunday pleaded not guilty to claims that they slandered a police officer and a doctor by accusing them of torture, Reuters/Independent Online reports (Reuters/Independent Online, 2/25). The five 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, in December 2006 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. A Libyan court in June 2005 acquitted nine police officers who had been charged with torturing the medical workers and forcing them to confess. Libyan police officer Juma Mishri and a doctor, Abdulmajid Alshoul, are asking for $3.9 million each in compensation for the nurses' torture accusations. Sofia, Bulgaria, prosecutor Nikolay Kokinov has said the country within four months will bring charges against 11 Libyan police officers for allegedly torturing the nurses into confessing. Kokinov said the charges would allow him to begin a judicial investigation, which could lead to a trial (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/13). The six medical workers on Sunday repeated claims that they were tortured into confessing, AFP/Yahoo! News reports (AFP/Yahoo! News, 2/25). During the trial, a Libyan prosecutor asked the court to give the medical workers the maximum sentence, which lawyers have said could be a six-year prison term and financial compensation. The court postponed the trial until March 11 (Reuters/Independent Online, 2/25).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.