Death Sentences Again for Bulgarian Medics

Politics | December 19, 2006, Tuesday // 00:00| Views: | Comments: 0
Bulgaria: Death Sentences Again for Bulgarian Medics AIDS trial defendants Kristiyana Valcheva (L) and Palestinian doctor Ashraf (R), as well as another four Bulgarian co-defendants heard Tuesday for a second time death verdicts. Photo by Middle-East-Online

A Libyan court reiterated the death sentences for five Bulgarian medics for deliberately infecting more than 400 children in a Benghazi hospital.

Judge Mahmoud Haouissa pronounced them guilty over these charges, but dropped the accompanying charges of illegal alcohol production and trading, adultery and foreign currency crimes.

"In the name of the people and after reviewing the documents and hearing the arguments by lawyers of both sides, the court decided on death sentences," he said. "They caused the spread of the disease that caused the death of more than one person."

Relatives of the infected children began celebrating in court as the verdict was read out.

The court also sentenced the defendants to pay indemnifications to the families of AIDS-stricken families.

A Bulgarian doctor, Zdravko Georgiev, who was sentenced to four years in the first trial, was now acquitted.

The defence team will now appeal the verdicts at the Supreme Court - a scenario Bulgaria and its five medics has already seen.

Defense lawyer Osman Bizanti was attacked on the way entering a Libyan court minutes ahead of the start of a session on Tuesday, December 19.

Prosecutors sought the death penalty for five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor - who deny charges. They say the medics deliberately injected the children with contaminated blood as part of an experiment to find an AIDS cure.

Defence lawyers said the children had the virus before the nurses arrived to start work in the city of Benghazi, and that the medics are scapegoats for unhygienic practices at the hospital.

Fifty-two of the children have since died of AIDS, while the surviving 374 are being treated at hospitals in France and Italy.

The foreign medical staff were first convicted of the crime and sentenced to die in 2004, but Libya's Supreme Court ordered a retrial. Official media in Libya are declaring that the guilt of the accused is a foregone conclusion. They have been held in jail in Libya since March 1999.

The case has become a focus of tension between Libya and the West, where experts are united in believing that the six have been made scapegoats for a crime they did not commit.

Reports by top AIDS experts, including one by Professor Luc Montagnier, one of the discoverers of Aids, have exonerated them.

Professor Montagnier said the epidemic was probably caused by poor hygiene in the hospital, and pointed out that it had begun before the six started working there, and continued after their arrest.

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