Medical Workers Sentenced To Death In HIV Infection Case Arrive In Bulgaria

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Six medical workers who were imprisoned for more than eight years inLibya for allegedly intentionally infecting hundreds of Libyan childrenwith HIV on Tuesday were pardoned by Bulgarian President GeorgiParvanov after arriving in the country, the AP/Boston Herald reports (AP/Boston Herald,7/24). The five Bulgarian nurses and one Palestinian doctor in May 2004were sentenced to death by firing squad for allegedly infecting 426children with HIV through contaminated blood products at Al FatehChildren's Hospital in Benghazi, Libya. They also were ordered to pay atotal of $1 million to the families of the HIV-positive children. TheLibyan 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 themto death. The medical workers then filed an appeal of the December 2006conviction with the Libyan Supreme Court. The Supreme Court upheld theconviction earlier this month.

The Gaddafi Development Foundation-- which is headed by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's son, Seifal-Islam Gaddafi -- earlier this month said the families of thechildren accepted a compensation package of about $460 million. Libya'sSupreme Judicial Council -- which can approve or cancel the SupremeCourt's conviction of the medical workers or issue a less serioussentence -- reduced the sentence to life in prison after each familyreceived the compensation package (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/18).

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Themedical workers arrived in Bulgaria with French first lady CecilaSarkozy, European Union Commissioner for Foreign Affairs BenitaFerrero-Waldner and French presidential aide Claude Gueant. Sarkozy'sdelegation arrived in Tripoli on Sunday to negotiate the release of themedical workers (Los Angeles Times, 7/24). The deal torelease the medical workers from Libya included steps to improve thecare of the HIV-positive children, according to French presidentialsources. "The return of the medics is a direct result of Bulgaria'smembership in the European Union, of the solidarity which the E.U.showed Bulgaria," Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev said.

E.C.President Jose Manuel Barraso said on Tuesday that the European Unionnow can normalize political and trade relations with Libya. "We hope togo on further normalizing our relations with Libya; our relations withLibya were in a large extent blocked by the nonsettlement of thismedics issue," Barraso said.

French President Nicolas Sarkozysaid he plans to travel to Libya on Wednesday to "help Libya rejoin theinternational community." According to Nicolas Sarkozy, neither Francenor the European Union paid money to Libya to secure the medicalworkers' release. Bulgaria last month granted citizenship to thePalestinian doctor, Ashraf al-Hazouz (AP/Boston Herald, 7/24).
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Reprinted with permission fromkaisernetwork.org.You can view the entire KaiserDaily HIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, and signup for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published forkaisernetwork.org,a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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