A court in Libya has resumed the re-trial of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor charged with intentionally infecting Libyan children with the HIV virus that causes AIDS.

The trial was postponed last month to give defense lawyers more time to prepare evidence. The nurses and doctor were convicted and sentenced to death two years ago, but Libya's Supreme Court overturned the verdict and ordered a new trial.

These Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian physician are accused of spreading the HIV virus to more than 400 Libyan children, 50 of whom have died. The defendants say their confessions were produced under torture.

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

The defendants were arrested in 1999 and have been in jail for the last seven years.