Attias: Release of Libya HIV Case Medics Took 70 Hours of Talks
C?cilia Attias, ex-wife of former French President Sarkozy, met Thursday in Sofia with the Bulgarian medics who spent 8 years in prison in Libya over a HIV trial.
Cecilia Attias, then-wife of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, had a major contribution to the release of the medics.
Five Bulgarian nurses, Kristiana Vulcheva, Nasya Nenova, Valentina Siropulo, Valya Chervenyashka and Snezhana Dimitrova, and one Palestinian doctor, Ashraf al-Haiui, spent eight years in prison in connection with the 1999 HIV/AIDS case at the Benghazi hospital. The six medics were charged with conspiring to deliberately infect over 400 children with HIV in 1998.
The doctor and five nurses were arrested in 1999 and were sentenced to death twice, first in 2004 and then again in 2006 following an appeal. Their sentences were subsequently commuted to to life in prison by a Libyan government panel.
The medics were released due to international pressure on the Gaddafi regime and were extradited to Bulgaria in July 2007
In her Thursday statement, Attias, as cited by dnevnik.bg, explained that it had taken over twenty hours of talks with Muammar Gaddafi and 45 hours of talks with representatives of the Libyan government and the son of Gaddafi, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, to negotiate the release of the Bulgarian medics sentenced to death in the Libya HIV trial.
She said that Gaddafi had expressed readiness to free the nurses in a conversation which had lasted around 20 hours, provided that the community agreed to that.
She added, however, that Saif al-Islam Gaddafi had been firmly opposed to such a step.
Cecilia Attias said that when she had first seen the arrested Bulgarian medics in prison they had had transparent and empty eyes and it had made her believe that she had to give them hope.
She said that the timing of the negotiations had been aptly chosen because the exit from the situation had been unclear as the death sentences for the medics had been confirmed by a court of second instance.
"I needed seven years to return to Bulgaria to get to know it because I had only seen the airport," Cecilia Attias noted.
She said that she had had a very emotional meeting with the Bulgarian nurses on Wednesday during which they had had the opportunity to talk about the things which had remained unsaid in 2007.
Cecilia Attias was granted honorary citizenship of Sofia on Thursday.
She told journalists that she was yet to get to know Bulgaria.
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