Bulgarian Nurses Sentenced to Death in HIV Case Demand Compensation for Torture While Detained in Libya
Five Bulgarian nurses who have been sentenced to death by a Libyan court for allegedly intentionally infecting children with HIV are demanding compensation for supposedly being tortured during their detention in Libya, the SAPA/AFP/Independent Online reports (SAPA/AFP/Independent Online, 1/17). A five-judge panel of a Libyan court in May 2004 sentenced to death by firing squad the five health workers and a Palestinian doctor who have been detained in the country since 1999 after being accused of deliberately infecting children with HIV through contaminated blood products. The health workers also were ordered to pay a total of $1 million to the families of the children, 46 of whom have died. Libyan Leader Moammar Kadafi accused the health workers of taking orders from the CIA and the Israeli secret service to kill Libyan children in order to destabilize the country. However, some European governments and human rights groups say that the Libyan Health Ministry failed to screen blood products adequately and allowed poor sterilization practices at Al Fateh Children's Hospital in Benghazi, Libya, where the children were infected. Libyan Foreign Minister Abdelrahman Shalgham in December 2004 said that the government might reconsider the death sentences of the health workers if the children's families are compensated by Bulgaria (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/7). Othmane al-Bizanthi, a Libyan attorney representing the nurses, said that the nurses each are seeking $716,807 in compensation for their alleged torture, according to the SAPA/AFP/Independent Online. Al-Bizanthi said that the case against the 10 police officers accused of torturing the nurses will begin on Jan. 25. Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy on Saturday said that Bulgaria was willing to give Libya humanitarian aid to combat the country's HIV/AIDS epidemic if the nurses are released, according to the SAPA/AFP/Independent Online (SAPA/AFP/Independent Online, 1/17).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.