Bulgarian doctors at trial in Libya for spreading AIDS

The negligent doctors allegedly used HIV-infected blood instead of good for blood transfusions
Libya is currently in the focus of a large-scale international scandal connected with a trial on medical workers whom the authorities charge with deliberate spreading AIDS among hundreds of Libyan children. The incident occurred in 1997 in Benghazi when 426 children and their mothers got infected with HIV, the virus which can lead to AIDS, 51 of them have already died. Five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian pediatrician who at that time worked at the blood transfusion and vaccination department of the local hospital are currently standing trial.

Investigators state that the medical workers organized supplies of donor HIV-infected blood from some African country. The negligent doctors allegedly used the infected blood instead of good which they sold somewhere. On Tuesday, the Libyan Supreme Court had to consider an appeal of the Bulgarian nurses whom the court of Benghazi sentenced to be shot last May. But the nurses insist they are not guilty; what is more they say they had been tortured to extract false confessions. Lawyers of the accused state the infection was the result of poor hygiene and the reuse of syringes at the hospital.

Today, the situation may develop according to two scenarios: the Supreme Court will either declare the death sentence valid or have re-consideration of the case. On Tuesday, Bulgarian Interior Minister Georgi Petkanov said he hoped the court would prefer the second scenario.

Some months ago, Libya demanded that Bulgaria must pay compensations equal to those that Libya had paid to families of people killed by the blast of an American airplane over Lockerby in 1988. Bulgaria refused to pay because it would mean the Bulgarian nurses were actually guilty of the disaster.

The Bulgarian authorities seek support of the US and the European Union in the conflict with the Libyan authorities. In October, US President George W. Bush called upon showing mercy upon the nurses and releasing them. In Paris, a demonstration in support of the convicted medical workers was organized before beginning of the court hearing. Human rights activists decided to hand a petition signed by 11,000 people over to a Libyan envoy.


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Author`s name Olga Savka