Court Postpones Slander Hearing for Medical Workers Sentenced to Death in Libyan HIV Infection Case
Libyan Judge Salem Hamrouni on Sunday postponed until April 29 a hearing in the slander trial brought against six medical workers sentenced to death for allegedly intentionally infecting hundreds of Libyan children with HIV, AFP/Independent Online reports. Hamrouni postponed the hearing to allow the medical workers' lawyers to prepare their defense in the case, according to AFP/Online (AFP/Independent Online, 4/22). The five Bulgarian nurses and one 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, in December 2006 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. A Libyan court in June 2005 acquitted nine police officers who had been charged with torturing the medical workers and forcing them to confess. In the current slander case, Libyan police officer Juma Mishri and a doctor, Abdulmajid Alshoul, are asking for $3.9 million each in compensation for the nurses' torture accusations. A Libyan prosecutor has asked the court to give the medical workers the maximum sentence, which lawyers have said could be a six-year prison term and financial compensation. Libyan police officer, Osama Awedan, joined the slander lawsuit in March. Awedan is asking for $5.4 million in compensation for distress caused by the torture allegations (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/13). Another Libyan police officer, Harb Amer, has joined the slander lawsuit, the court heard on Sunday, Reuters Africa reports (Reuters Africa, 4/22). In related news, U.S. Department of State Deputy Secretary John Negroponte last week during his visit to Libya made an informal complaint to the country about the case, the Washington Times reports. The complaint was an "expression of the Bush administration's frustration that the issue has become an impediment to fully normalizing U.S.-Libya relations," according to the Times. Negroponte on Monday said that the case is "long past due for resolution. And the best I could do was to impress upon them the importance we attach to that question" (Kralev, Washington Times, 4/24).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.