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Libyan Court Sentences Six Foreign Health Care Workers to Death


A Libyan court has handed down death sentences to six foreign health care workers convicted of deliberately infecting more than 400 Libyan children with the virus that causes AIDS.

The court in Tripoli announced its verdict Tuesday after a second trial of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor.

The defendants have the right to appeal to Libya's Supreme Court.

The six were charged with deliberately spreading HIV - the virus that causes AIDS - at a hospital in Benghazi in 1998. At least 50 of the infected children have since died.

The foreign health care workers were arrested in 1999 and sentenced to death in 2004 on charges of intentionally infecting the children.

Libya's Supreme Court later overturned the sentences and ordered the retrial.

The defendants have denied the charges, and say Libyan police used torture to extract confessions used against them in the first trial.

Lawyers for the health care workers say evidence and testimony showed the hospital's practice of re-using syringes led to the infections. They also noted that H.I.V. infections were evident at the hospital a year before the medics arrived in Libya.

Last month, an international group of physicians and scientists urged Libya to free the medics, citing what they called a "shocking" lack of evidence implicating them in the infections. The experts said there were no grounds even to suspect the medical workers.

The case has sparked concern in European capitals and in Washington.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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