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Rocketta
Dec 20th, 2006, 04:24 AM
December 20, 2006
Libya Sentences 6 to Die in H.I.V. Case

By CRAIG S. SMITH (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/s/craig_s_smith/index.html?inline=nyt-per)


PARIS, Dec. 19 — A Libyan court on Tuesday again sentenced five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor to be shot by a firing squad for deliberately infecting more than 400 children with H.I.V. (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/health/diseasesconditionsandhealthtopics/aids/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier), more than 50 of whom have died. The decision complicates Libya (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/libya/index.html?inline=nyt-geo)’s efforts to improve relations with the West.


The verdict drew expressions of anger and alarm from Bulgaria and its supporters in the nearly eight-year-old case, which now appears likely to drag on for months, if not years, more.


“We are going to urge the Libyan political leadership to engage in the process,” Bulgaria’s foreign minister, Ivaylo Kalfin, said from Washington, where he met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/r/condoleezza_rice/index.html?inline=nyt-per) hours after the verdict was announced.


Mr. Kalfin said his country was working through the Libyan Foreign Ministry to ask the nation’s leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/q/muammar_el_qaddafi/index.html?inline=nyt-per), and political institutions to intervene on the ground that an inefficient and biased judicial system had failed to deal with the case credibly.


Lawyers for the medical workers said they would appeal to Libya’s Supreme Court.


The episode began in February 1998 when the nurses arrived to take up jobs at Al Fateh Children’s Hospital in Benghazi, the country’s second largest city. By August that year, children at the hospital began testing positive for H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS. Health authorities soon realized they had a major problem. Ω A

An investigation concluded that the infections came from the wards where the Bulgarian nurses had been assigned. Dozens of Bulgarian medical workers were arrested, and vials of H.I.V.-tainted blood were found in a videotaped search of one nurse’s apartment.


According to a Libyan intelligence report submitted to the court, that nurse, Kristiyana Vulcheva, later confessed that the vials had been given to her by a British friend who was working in Libya. She said she and her colleagues had used the vials to infect the children.


Colonel Qaddafi subsequently charged that the health care workers had acted on the orders of the Central Intelligence Agency (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/c/central_intelligence_agency/index.html?inline=nyt-org) and Israel’s intelligence agency, the Mossad.


A Benghazi court eventually convicted five nurses and a Palestinian doctor of deliberately injecting the children with the virus. But Ms. Vulcheva and another nurse said they were tortured into confessing, and international AIDS experts — including Luc Montagnier, the French virologist and a co-discoverer of H.I.V. — concluded that the virus predated the nurses’ arrival and was probably spread by contaminated needles.


The medical workers were sentenced to death in May 2004, which led to difficult negotiations among Libya, Bulgaria, the United States and the European Union (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/e/european_union/index.html?inline=nyt-org) to find out a way out of the impasse.


Finally, last December, the four announced that they were setting up an international fund to cover medical care and other costs incurred by the families of the H.I.V.-infected children. Libya’s Supreme Court quashed the death sentences two days later and called for a retrial, this time by a court in the capital, Tripoli.


The families have asked that Bulgaria or other donors provide $10 million per child, the same amount that Libya agreed to pay each of the families of the 270 people killed in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, for which Libya has accepted responsibility.
The families have said they would agree to release the nurses and the doctor if their request was satisfied. Under Libyan law, victims’ families have the power to grant clemency in return for compensation.


But only a few million dollars in cash, services and equipment has been donated to the fund; some of that was used to treat the children in Europe this year. Talks over further donations stalled while the trial was under way, apparently because, the Libyan families said, Bulgaria had hoped the new court would find the nurses not guilty.


But on Tuesday, the presiding judge, Mahmoud Hawissa, announced the latest guilty verdict in a seven-minute hearing. The Bulgarian foreign minister and defense lawyers argue that this trial was as equally flawed as the previous one.


Emmanuel Altit, a French lawyer in Paris who worked on the defense team, said: “The question of torture by electricity, proof that the nurses had been beaten, sexually harassed, kept for six months without contact, the question of fabricated evidence, none of this was discussed at all. The court refused to hear our experts.”


The justice commissioner of the European Union, Franco Frattini, called on Libyan authorities to rethink their handling of the case, calling it “an obstacle to cooperation with the E.U.” Bulgaria will become a member of the union on Jan. 1.


But for those Libyans who believe the nurses are guilty, the verdict was a foregone conclusion, even if their execution is not. Ramadan al-Faitore, whose 4-year-old stepsister was among the first to die, predicted earlier this month that the medical workers would be sentenced to death but not executed.


“No one will kill the nurses,” Mr. Faitore said in Paris, echoing a statement made by Colonel Qaddafi’s son Seif two years ago. Mr. Faitore said the nurses’ freedom would depend on donations to the international fund. “After the trial, negotiations will start again,” he said.


Mr. Kalfin, the Bulgarian foreign minister, said his country was committed to making sure that the fund would “provide lifelong medical treatment for the children and create conditions that would prevent this from ever happening again.”


But he bristled at the suggestion that Bulgaria would pay “blood money” for the release of the nurses, calling such talk cynical.


Standing in a muddy field across the street from the Libyan Embassy in Sofia, Zorka Anachkova, the mother of Ms. Vulcheva, the nurse, said she wasn’t surprised by the verdict.


“What kind of negotiations can you have for innocent people?” she asked. “All the evidence proves their innocence. Their innocence is axiomatic. What else is there to talk about?”
M?".

Rocketta
Dec 20th, 2006, 04:30 AM
What a strange, strange case. :unsure:

Were they coerced into confessing? I believe most probably were.

Did they actually find a vial of infected blood in a Nurse's appartment? Was it planted? If planted, why? How did all these children get infected?

Terrible case anyway you look at it. :(

kiwifan
Dec 20th, 2006, 04:49 AM
What a strange, strange case. :unsure:

Were they coerced into confessing? I believe most probably were.

Did they actually find a vial of infected blood in a Nurse's appartment? Was it planted? If planted, why? How did all these children get infected?

Terrible case anyway you look at it. :(

:confused: that's what I really want to know.

conspiracy theorists might note that aids spreading in the...

...oh yeah, I'm not a conspiracy theorist so never mind :bolt:

njnetswill
Dec 20th, 2006, 05:06 AM
Bizarre. I feel sorry for everyone involved.

Wigglytuff
Dec 20th, 2006, 05:44 AM
What a strange, strange case. :unsure:

Were they coerced into confessing? I believe most probably were.

Did they actually find a vial of infected blood in a Nurse's appartment? Was it planted? If planted, why? How did all these children get infected?

Terrible case anyway you look at it. :(

my thoughts EXACTLY.

kittyking
Dec 20th, 2006, 06:30 AM
None of these people should be given the death penalty, and this case seems rather bizarre to me too - I bet theirs alot of secrets behind this

Brett.
Dec 20th, 2006, 06:37 AM
Those pathetics Bulgarian Nurses! Idiot!!!

Scotso
Dec 20th, 2006, 06:38 AM
Well, who knows for certain? Who knows for certain in any case, no matter what country it's in?

If they did do it, they have it coming.

!Gio!
Dec 20th, 2006, 07:18 AM
Bulgaria reacts to Libya verdict
By Virginia Savova
Sofia, Bulgaria



Protesters gathered outside the Libyan embassy in Sofia
Bulgarians have reacted with shock and disbelief to the death sentences passed by a Libyan court on five Bulgarian nurses.

They have widely disputed the Libyan court's verdict that the nurses deliberately infected Libyan children with the HIV virus.

Ordinary people who had followed the case gathered silently in the cold December morning in front of the Libyan embassy in Sofia, waiting to hear the court's decision.

Their hopes of a not guilty verdict were dashed. After news of the sentences, people filed away silently.

Among them was the nurse Kristiana Valcheva's mother, Zorka Anachkova.

Broken-hearted

She said she had expected the death sentences.

It wasn't enough that they had sentenced innocent people, but now they confirmed it.

Polina Dimitrova
Daughter of condemned nurse

"I feel so bad that I have to take medicine in order to survive all this today," said Ms Anachkova.

"We are all heart-broken. Can anyone tell me what evil has Kristiana ever done?" she added.

The sister-in-law of Tsvetanka Siropoulo, Valentina Siropoulo, was certain the medics would be released, but it would take time.

"It is so sad that so many years have passed and they are still in jail," Ms Siropoulo said.

According to Gergana Grigorova, Tsvetanka Siropoulo's cousin, Libya was continuing to blackmail Bulgaria.

In her opinion the medics were hostages of Colonel Gadaffi.

"It's bad news, but we expected the death sentences to be confirmed," Ms Grogorova said.

"This is such an injustice," said Polina Dimitrova, daughter of the nurse Snezhana Dimitrova.

"I simply cannot believe that such a thing can happen. It wasn't enough that they had sentenced innocent people, but now they confirmed it.

"I can only imagine how the medics feel at that moment - they must be crushed," said Ms Dimitrova.

Media frenzy

The news has dominated the headlines in the local media.

Television, radio stations and websites are all reporting on the reaction of the medics' relatives, the Bulgarian authorities and the international community.


Bulgarian president Georgi Parvanov condemned the sentences

Vladimir Chukov, an Arabic affairs expert, said Bulgaria should continue insisting on the innocence of the medics.

"The Bulgarian defence is very well organized and has already gathered experience. There must be a total mobilization and all additional means and allies must be used."

The journalist Velislava Dureva is one of the organisers of processions in many cities in Bulgaria, and a concert in the capital Sofia aimed at highlighting the nurses' plight.

'Clash of civilisations'

She portrayed the verdict of the Libyan court as proof of the fact that the Libyan regime cared only for its own survival.

"In my opinion, what we experience now is a clash not just between civilizations, but between the law and the lawlessness and between the democracy and the dictatorship," said Ms Dureva.

Her opinion is shared by many Bulgarian internet users, as can be seen by the comments made in Bulgarian websites.

In a comment published in the website Mediapool, an unnamed Bulgarian puts the blame on Colonel Gadaffi.

"So, this is the terror - to pump the psychological pressure permanently and to the limit, asking for many millions under the pretext of justice," wrote the website user.

Other users blame the Bulgarian government and its senior staff, describing them as heedless to the fate of the medics.

More people are expected to express their anger when they gather again today in front of the Libyan embassy in Sofia, following an appeal made by the Bulgarian nationalist party Ataka.






Libyan Death Sentences for Medics Condemned by EU (Update1)

By Elizabeth Konstantinova and James G. Neuger

Dec. 19 (Bloomberg) -- The European Union and Bulgaria accused Libya of judicial failures after a court in Tripoli sentenced to death five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor convicted of infecting children with the virus that causes AIDS.

The six medical workers have been in custody since their arrest in 1999 on charges they knowingly injected 426 Libyan children with blood tainted with HIV while working at a Benghazi hospital. Fifty-three of the children have died. Defense lawyers maintained that the children were infected before the medics began working at the hospital in the Mediterranean city.

``The European Commission simply cannot accept this verdict,'' said Johannes Laitenberger, spokesman for the EU executive branch. Bulgarian Parliament Speaker Georgi Pirinski said the decision was ``absurd'' and ``based on obviously flawed investigative procedures and evidence extorted by torture.''

The case has hindered Libya's efforts to restore ties with the U.S. and the EU after years of sanctions following the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, in which 270 people died. In 2003, Libya agreed to pay $2.7 billion in compensation to the families of the victims.

Bulgaria, which joins the EU on Jan. 1 and is part of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, sought international support to help free the nurses.

The Libyan court ``did not take into account solid legal and scientific evidence proving the medical workers' innocence,'' Pirinski told the Parliament in Sofia.

Financial Aid

Laitenberger told reporters in Brussels the commission is ``shocked by this verdict'' and that members ``condemn'' it. He declined to rule out a cutoff of European financial aid to Libya.

``The European Commission reiterates its serious concerns with regard to the basis on which the accused persons were prosecuted, their treatment while in custody and the lengthy delays in the process,'' Laitenberger said. ``The European Commission also recalls that the European Union opposes the death penalty in all cases and under all circumstances.''

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier denounced the court decision as ``shocking news'' and said Germany will use its powers as EU president in the first half of next year to push Libya to drop the sentences.

``We will continue to exert pressure under the German presidency that Libya doesn't only take part in a solution but ultimately brings about a solution,'' Steinmeier told a Brussels news conference.

U.S. President George W. Bush's spokesman, Tony Snow, told reporters in Washington, ``We're disappointed in the verdict.''

Firing Squad

The defendants were first sentenced in Benghazi in 2004 to face a firing squad. Today's verdict, which was confirmed by a government spokesman in a telephone interview from Tripoli, came during a retrial ordered by Libya's Supreme Court a year ago, following international pressure.

The Benghazi court rejected testimony from Luc Montagnier, the French researcher who first isolated HIV, and from Swiss and Italian scientists. The scientists said the infection was caused by poor hygiene and started before the nurses worked there. The Tripoli court refused to allow defense witnesses to testify.

``Once again, firm evidence based on international scientific research proving the innocence of our medics was not taken into account,'' Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov told reporters in Sofia. `We reject these death sentences and appeal to Libyan authorities to free the Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian doctor.''

Appeal Planned

Bulgarian lawyer Trian Markovski, chief of the defense team representing the six medics, said they will immediately appeal the sentences to Libya's Supreme Court.

``Should the Supreme Court confirm the death sentences, the case will be submitted to a nine-member Judicial Board, which has the power to overturn any court ruling,'' Markovski said in a telephone interview from Tripoli.

Amnesty International called on Libya to declare that the death sentences won't be carried out.

``The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, and in this case it has been imposed after a grossly unfair trial,'' Malcolm Smart, Middle East and North Africa program director for the London-based human rights organization, said on the Amnesty Web site. ``Only a fair trial can bring out the truth and do justice to the children who have been infected with HIV and their parents.''

Bulgaria worked with international aid organizations to set up a fund that will help treat the infected children and improve health care in the Benghazi hospital. It declined an offer by Libyan authorities to compensate directly the families of the affected children in exchange for scrapping the death sentences.

The North African state expects international oil companies to spend more than $7 billion on exploration during the next 10 years and reach daily production of 3 million barrels per day by the end of the decade, around double the current output.





Libyan Court Sentences Health Workers to Death in AIDS Case
By Challiss McDonough
Cairo, Egypt
19 December 2006



A Libyan court has convicted six foreign health workers of deliberately infecting hundreds of children with the virus that causes AIDS, and has sentenced them to death. The verdict brought swift condemnation from Europe and from international human rights groups. VOA Correspondent Challiss McDonough has more from our Middle East bureau in Cairo.

The court issued the death sentences after convicting five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor of deliberately infecting more than 400 children with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

A defense lawyer said the trial was unfair and the verdict will be appealed.

The defendants have been imprisoned for seven years. This is the second time they have been sentenced to death. A first trial verdict was overturned in 2005 and a new trial was ordered, after an international outcry over the fairness of the proceedings.

Human rights groups and AIDS scientists say the second trial was no better. The court refused to throw out the confessions of three of the accused, which they have repeatedly said were obtained under torture.

The court also refused to allow international AIDS experts to testify on behalf of the defense or to admit scientific research that could have pointed to the health workers' innocence.

A number of the world's most prominent AIDS researchers, including the co-discoverer of the virus, say the children were most likely infected by accident as a result of unhygienic practices in the Libyan healthcare system.

Research published recently in the scientific journal Nature found that the children were likely infected long before the foreign nurses and doctor even began working in the Bengazi clinic, possibly even three years before they arrived.

Amnesty International researcher Philip Luther said it appears the foreign health workers are being used as scapegoats.

"Well, we are certainly shocked by the decision and very disappointed by it," Luther said. "It is not a total surprise in the sense that these decisions where the judiciary is concerned in Libya tend to be rather unpredictable. But our first reaction is a strong condemnation of the verdict, of the death sentences handed down to the six foreign health professionals in Libya, and we call as a very first step on the Libyan authorities to withdraw those death sentences immediately."

The Libyan government has criticized human rights groups for, in its view, paying more attention to the accused than to the fate of the HIV infected children, at least 52 of whom have since died of AIDS.

Luther said Amnesty is concerned about the children.

"The fact of the matter is that anyone who is in any way responsible for those infections, we certainly see that they should be brought to justice," Luther said. "The fact of the matter here is that there has been such a travesty of justice and that irregular proceedings, torture and long periods of incommunicado detention do not serve that cause, do not serve the cause of those children who have suffered so terribly. They only serve to obscure the real facts in the case and make justice even harder to achieve.

Bulgaria has condemned the death sentences, and appealed to Libya to immediately release the health workers.

A number of regional analysts predict that the Libyan authorities will grant the health workers clemency after some kind of deal is reached on compensation for the victims. Bulgaria has previously ruled out paying compensation, saying its citizens were innocent.

Bulgaria is slated to join the European Union on January 1, and the issue of the nurses has strained relations between Libya and the European Union at a time when both sides were working to improve ties.

!Gio!
Dec 20th, 2006, 07:22 AM
There is evidence there that the kids had already contracted the diseases before the nurses even arrived in Libya. They have been 8 years in prison for a crime I don't believe they commited. Do I think they are guilty to some degree, yeah first of all they shouldn't have been there in the first place. But they are scapegoats to a government who wants an easier way out. Any convetions made where made during sessions of complete torture. They are victims and all this as well as are their families who have been waiting to see them for 8 years. The real tragedy in all this is all those kids, that is unthinkable.

Qrystyna
Dec 20th, 2006, 07:22 AM
Well, who knows for certain? Who knows for certain in any case, no matter what country it's in?

If they did do it, they have it coming.

I think what bothers me the most is that if they really did do it... then why? :sad:

Rocketta
Dec 20th, 2006, 07:36 AM
Here read something and stop being so ignorant.

um, maybe you should quote the person you are referring to? :confused:

but better yet just ignore the troll, was it even worth responding to?

Qrystyna
Dec 20th, 2006, 07:38 AM
There is evidence there that the kids had already contracted the diseases before the nurses even arrived in Libya. They have been 8 years in prison for a crime I don't believe they commited. Do I think they are guilty to some degree, yeah first of all they shouldn't have been there in the first place. But they are scapegoats to a government who wants an easier way out. Any convetions made where made during sessions of complete torture. They are victims and all this as well as are their families who have been waiting to see them for 8 years. The real tragedy in all this is all those kids, that is unthinkable.

I dunno what to say, perhaps the Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian doctor were being used as scapegoats :confused: