Slander Hearing for Medical Workers Sentenced to Death in Libyan HIV Infection Case Postponed
A hearing in the slander trial brought against five Bulgarian nurses and one Palestinian doctor sentenced to death for allegedly intentionally infecting hundreds of Libyan children has been postponed until March 25 to allow the medical workers' lawyers to prepare their defense in the case, AFP/Focus News reports (AFP/Focus News, 3/11). The 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, 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. In the current slander case, Libyan police officer Juma Mishri and a doctor, Abdulmajid Alshoul, are asking for $3.9 million each in compensation for the nurses' torture accusations. A Libyan prosecutor has 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 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/27). Another Libyan police officer, Osama Awedan, has joined the slander lawsuit, the court heard on Sunday. Awedan is asking for $5.4 million in compensation for distress caused by the torture allegations (Reuters, 3/11).
Libyan Play Examines Country's Hospitals
The New York Times on Monday examined the Libyan play, titled "Hospital," that criticizes the quality of hospitals and health care in the country. The play's author, Dawoud al-Houty, is the father of one of the more than 400 children allegedly intentionally infected with HIV by the medical workers. According to the Times, "Hospital" played for a record 55 weeks in theaters in Benghazi. The play also was popular in Tripoli, where it has been circulated in a video version. According to Farag Abdel Kareem, an actor who played several roles in "Hospital," the play represents a common cause in the country. "It is theater for venting -- its purpose and role is to vent," he said, adding, "And this is the reason for its success." Fatima Ghandour, a drama professor in Tripoli, said that the play received "a lot of criticism, more than you can imagine. This was never done before." She added, "There are certain truths people are now talking about and they are not afraid to talk about" (Slackman, New York Times, 3/12).