German Chancellor Merkel Calls on Libya To Release Bulgarian Nurses
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday called on Libya to release five Bulgarian nurses sentenced to death for allegedly intentionally infecting hundreds of Libyan children with HIV, the AP/International Herald Tribune reports (AP/International Herald Tribune, 1/9). "As far as the nurses are concerned, the [European] Commission and the German presidency will do everything possible to influence Libya to ensure the nurses are released," Merkel said after talks with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso (Reuters UK, 1/9). The five nurses, along with a Palestinian doctor, in May 2004 were sentenced to death by firing squad for allegedly infecting 426 children 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, last month convicted the health workers and sentenced them to death. The health workers say they are innocent of the charges, claiming that they were forced to confess and that they were tortured by Libyan officials during interrogations (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/4). Barroso said the U.S. government and many other countries are working to find a solution to the situation. "We hope that the Libyan authorities will understand how important this is also for their cooperation with Europe," he said, adding that the nurses "have been in a situation which we consider completely unfair for such a long time." The medical workers plan to appeal their convictions and sentences before the Libyan Supreme Court (AP/International Herald Tribune, 1/9).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.