Bulgaria To Transfer $57M Of Libya's Debt To International Fund For HIV-Positive Children

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HIV-Positive Children

Bulgarian Deputy Foreign Minister Feim Chaushev on Monday signed anagreement to transfer about $57 million of Libya's debt to Bulgaria toan international fund to aid more than 400 Libyan children living withHIV/AIDS, the AP/International Herald Tribunereports. The agreement is part of a deal that secured the release offive Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor who were imprisoned formore than eight years in Libya for allegedly intentionally infectingthe children with HIV (AP/International Herald Tribune, 9/3).


Themedical workers in May 2004 were sentenced to death by firing squad forallegedly infecting 426 children with HIV through contaminated bloodproducts at Al Fateh Children's Hospital in Benghazi, Libya. They alsowere ordered to pay a total of $1 million to the families of theHIV-positive children. The Libyan Supreme Court in December 2005overturned the medical workers' convictions and ordered a retrial in alower court. A court in Tripoli, Libya, in December 2006 convicted thehealth workers and sentenced them to death. The medical workers thenfiled an appeal of the December 2006 conviction with the Libyan SupremeCourt. The Supreme Court upheld the conviction in July. After Libya'sSupreme Judicial Council reduced the sentence to life in prison, thesix medical workers were released and pardoned by Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov after arriving in the country. The Gaddafi Development Foundation-- which is headed by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's son, Seifal-Islam Gaddafi -- in July said the families of the children accepteda compensation package of about $460 million. The Supreme JudicialCouncil -- which can approve or cancel the Supreme Court's convictionof the medical workers or issue a less serious sentence -- reduced thesentences to life in prison after each family received the compensationpackage (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/17).

"TransferringLibya's debt to Bulgaria into the Benghazi fund is a humanitarian andsocial act," Chaushev said, adding, "We have always underlined that weare committed to solving the tragedy in Benghazi, so let the money beused to this aim." According to AFP/Middle East Times,Libya stopped paying back its debt to Bulgaria in 1984. The agreementwas co-signed by Mark Pierini, chair of the Benghazi InternationalFund. "The fund was instrumental in obtaining a pardon from thefamilies of the victims in Benghazi and for the annulation of the deathsentence and later for the medics' release," Pierini said Monday (AFP/Middle East Times, 9/3).

Pierinisaid he could not disclose the amount collected by the fund but saidthat the European Commission contributed a total of about $16 millionand that Germany contributed about $2 million. The Bulgarian governmentpreviously said 27 donors -- including 17 governments, nine privatecompanies and one nongovernmental organization -- also had committed tocontribute to the fund (Reuters,9/3). Bulgaria has said that it canceled Libya's debt as a gesture ofgoodwill and that it should not be seen as an admission of the medicalworkers' guilt, according to the AP/Herald Tribune (AP/International Herald Tribune, 9/3).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view theentire Kaiser DailyHIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . TheKaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service ofThe Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.