The Libyan prosecutor in the retrial of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian physician charged with infecting Libyan children with HIV has asked for the death penalty.

The defendants are accused of intentionally infecting more than 400 children with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Fifty have died.

A Libyan court sentenced the defendants to death by firing squad in 2004. But the country's supreme court threw out the verdict last year and ordered a new trial. The defendants deny the charges and say they confessed under torture.

Bulgarian officials say they expected the prosecutor to again call for the death penalty but say they are hopeful it will not be carried out.

The trial has been adjourned until September 5.

Medical experts say the AIDS epidemic among Libyan children predated the foreign medical workers' arrival in the country. Poor hygiene in Libyan hospitals has been cited as the most likely cause of the outbreak.

The defendants were arrested in 1999 and have been imprisoned ever since.

Last year Bulgaria joined the United States and European Union in agreeing to create an international fund to help fight AIDS in Libya.

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