French Attorneys Agree To Represent Bulgarian Nurses Sentenced to Death in Libyan HIV Infection Case
A team of French lawyers from Lawyers Without Borders has agreed to travel to Libya next week to represent five Bulgarian nurses who have been sentenced to death for allegedly intentionally infecting children with HIV, Bulgaria's Justice Minister Anton Stankov said on Sunday, Reuters reports (Reuters,, 1/23). 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 were compensated by Bulgaria. Othmane al-Bizanthi, a Libyan attorney representing the nurses, said that the nurses each are seeking $716,807 in compensation for their alleged torture (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/19). The French lawyers also have agreed to help with the nurses' civil case against the Libyan guards who the nurses say tortured them, according to Reuters. "The participation of the French lawyers will widen the opportunity for their defense," Stankov said (Reuters, 1/23).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.