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Bulgaria Condemns Libyan Death Sentence for Medics - 2004-05-06


Bulgaria has condemned a Libyan court's death sentences for six Bulgarian medics convicted of infecting hundreds of hospital patients with the virus that causes AIDS. The Bulgarian government says the verdicts were unacceptable and will be appealed.

Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov told reporters that "the hearts of the entire nation go out" to the Bulgarian medics and their relatives who, he said, were victims of a miscarriage of justice.

He spoke shortly after a Libyan court in the northern town of Benghazi convicted six Bulgarian health workers and a Palestinian doctor for deliberately spreading HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, among hundreds of children in a Libyan hospital.

The court sentenced the medics to death, and ordered Bulgaria to pay unspecified damages to the alleged victims' relatives.

The medics, who have been in detention since 1999, pleaded innocent. Experts for the defense argued that poor medical hygiene at the al-Fateh Children's Hospital in Benghazi was the most likely cause of the contamination.

Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi expressed serious doubts about the fairness of the trial, and said the medics were tortured while in custody.

"All of us saw the pictures with tortures [of prisoners] in Iraq [by coalition troops recently," he said. "But what happened to the Bulgarian medics and the Palestinian doctor was even more awful, more disgusting, and lasted much longer."

The European Union expressed shock at the Bulgarians' conviction, and called for a reversal of the verdict.

Libya has recently emerged from international isolation after agreeing to scrap its weapons of mass destruction program.

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