Libyan Supreme Court To Hear Appeal Arguments in HIV Infection Case, Officials Say
The Libyan Supreme Court this week is scheduled to hear arguments in an appeal filed by six medical workers who were sentenced to death for allegedly intentionally infecting hundreds of Libyan children with HIV, Reuters reports (Reuters, 6/17). The five nurses and one 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.
Libya has suggested that it will free the nurses if compensation is paid to the families of the HIV-positive children. The country has demanded 10 million euros, or about $13 million, for each child's family. Bulgaria has rejected the demand, saying it would be an admission of guilt, but has agreed to fund the treatment for the children at European hospitals. The European Union has donated 2.5 million euros, or about $3.3 million, to the fund (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/12).
Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi -- head of the Gaddafi Development Foundation and son of the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi -- last week in an interview with an Italian newspaper said that the Supreme Court will issue a verdict by Wednesday, AFP/Yahoo! News reports. "The Supreme Court will pronounce the sentence Wednesday and immediately after the verdict, we will begin to work ... on a package (of measures) with a view to a solution," he said. However, an official with the Gaddafi Foundation denied the remarks, saying that they had been translated incorrectly by the newspaper. The official said the appeal instead will begin on Wednesday and a verdict date has not been set.
According to AFP/Yahoo! News, Gaddafi in the interview also suggested that the court will uphold the death penalty until a satisfactory compensation package can be negotiated. "The first step is a compromise with the families in order that there can be a pardon, in such a way that the death sentence is not carried out," he said. Any compensation package must include medical assistance for the children, funds from the European Union for Libya's HIV/AIDS plan and an eventual "partnership" between Brussels and Libya, he said (AFP/Yahoo! News, 6/16). Ramadan Fitouri, spokesperson for the Association for the Families of the HIV-Infected Children, said he expected the appeal to be dismissed. "This will then be the ideal time to negotiate the issue of compensation," he said, adding that if an agreement is reached, Libya's High Judicial Council could overturn the death penalty (Reuters, 6/17).