Lack of Agreement Over Compensation Package Stalling Deal on Libyan HIV Infection Case, Families of HIV-Positive Children Say
The families of HIV-positive children in Libya on Friday announced that a lack of agreement over a compensation package has stalled an agreement that could lead to the release of six medical workers who were sentenced to death for allegedly intentionally infecting the children with HIV, AFP/EU Business reports (AFP/EU Business, 6/22). 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. The Libyan Supreme Court this week heard arguments in an appeal filed by the medical workers of the December 2006 conviction.
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, 6/19).
Previous reports indicated that the European Union and the families of HIV-positive children on Friday were expected to announce an agreement that could result in the release of the medical workers, the New York Times reports (Rosenthal, New York Times, 6/21). However, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Tvailo Kalfin on Friday said that a deal is far from being reached. "There's been dynamism" in negotiations with the families of the HIV-positive children during the "past few weeks, but the case is still far from a solution," Kalfin said, adding that he could not "say when a deal will be agreed or announced as talks are still underway" (AFP/EU Business, 6/22).
Driss Lagha, chair of the Association for the Families of the HIV-Infected Children, said that a deal might be reached before the next Supreme Court hearing (Sarrar, Reuters India, 6/20). The Supreme Court on Wednesday announced that it will rule on the appeal on July 11. The announcement was made following final arguments from lawyers for the health workers and families of the HIV-positive children, as well as the state prosecutor. The medical workers were not present at the session, but ambassadors from several European countries attended. A Libyan judicial board can uphold or annul the Supreme Court's decision, according to the AP/San Diego Union-Tribune (El-Deeb, AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, 6/20). Lagha said that any deal reached between Libya and the European Union would not affect the court's decision on July 11. In addition, Bulgaria on Tuesday announced that it had granted citizenship to the Palestinian doctor, Ashraf Alhajouj -- a move that could help bring him out of Libya if the sentence is overturned (Reuters India, 6/20).