Medical Workers Sentenced to Death in HIV Infection Case Were Tortured During Incarceration, Gaddafi’s Son Says
The six medical workers released recently from Libyan prison after being sentenced to death for allegedly intentionally infecting hundreds of children with HIV were tortured during their incarceration, Seif Al-Islam Gaddafi -- head of the Gaddafi Development Foundation and son of the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi -- said Wednesday on Al-Jazeera television, the Washington Post reports (Moore, Washington Post, 8/10).
The five Bulgarian nurses and Palestinian doctor in May 2004 were sentenced to death by firing squad for allegedly infecting 426 children with HIV 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 medical workers then filed an appeal of the December 2006 conviction with the Libyan Supreme Court. The Supreme Court upheld the conviction last month. After Libya's Supreme Judicial Council reduced the sentence to life in prison, the six medical workers were released and pardoned by Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov after arriving in the country (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/9).
The medical workers have said that they were tortured by electric shocks, rape, attacks by dogs and other techniques during their incarceration to force them to confess, the Post reports. "Yes, [the medical workers] were tortured by electricity, and they were threatened that their family members would be targeted," Seif Al-Islam Gaddafi said. He added that although electric shock was used, other allegations of torture -- including some made by the Palestinian doctor, Ashraf al-Hazouz -- are false (Washington Post, 8/10). Libyan officials refused to comment on Seif Al-Islam Gaddafi's statements, the AP/Guardian reports (Schemm, AP/Guardian, 8/9).
In related news, Bulgarian judicial authorities on Friday started questioning the six medical workers about their experiences in prison, the AP/International Herald Tribune reports. The country's Criminal Investigation Service announced that the medical workers had started to testify but did not release further details.
Bulgaria's prosecution services this year charged several Libyan officers with torturing the medical workers to extract their confessions and has said it plans to pursue the case. A Libyan court in 2005 rejected the lawsuits against the officers, the AP/Tribune reports (AP/International Herald Tribune, 8/10).