Bulgarian President Parvanov Awards French President Sarkozy Country’s Highest Honor Following Medical Workers’ Release
Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov on Thursday in Sofia, Bulgaria, awarded French President Nicolas Sarkozy the Stara Planina order -- the country's highest honor -- for his role in the release of the six medical workers sentenced to death for allegedly intentionally infecting hundreds of Libyan children with HIV, Reuters Africa reports (Mudeva, Reuters Africa, 10/4).
The medical workers 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 in July.
Libya's Supreme Judicial Council -- which can approve or cancel the Supreme Court's decisions -- reduced the sentences to life in prison after each family received a compensation package. The Gaddafi Development Foundation -- which is headed by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's son, Seif al-Islam Gaddafi -- in July said the families of the children accepted a compensation package of about $460 million. After the sentence was reduced, the six medical workers were released and pardoned by Parvanov after arriving in Bulgaria (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/19).
Sarkozy after the ceremony said, "The tragedy of the Bulgarian medics was not only a tragedy of the Bulgarian people, but also of Europe and France." He added, "Every European member should rely on the solidarity of the others." Sarkozy was scheduled to meet with the medical workers on Thursday, Reuters Africa reports (Reuters Africa, 10/4).