Efforts intensify to free death row medics imprisoned for more than eight years
Posted, May 30, 2007 @ 00:00
Brussels, 30 May 2007 -- International pressure is being stepped up to secure the release of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor, condemned to death for allegedly infecting children with the HIV virus.
Hopes of a breakthrough grew on Sunday when a Libyan court dismissed charges that the medics defamed police officers at their retrial last December by claiming their confessions were extracted under torture.
Geoffrey Van Orden MEP, the European Parliament's rapporteur for Bulgaria, said: "Of course we welcome any easing of the awful pressure on the nurses, but none of us will be content until they are free. They have suffered wrongful imprisonment for over eight years now, much of that time under sentence of death. I trust that the Prime Minister will be able to bring about some urgent movement on this issue in his meetings with President Gaddafi."
Accused of intentionally infecting more than 400 children with HIV while working at a Libyan hospital, the medics were first sentenced to death by firing squad in May 2004.
Appeals from the international community, including the European Parliament, resulted in Libya's Supreme Court setting aside the death penalty and ordering a retrial in December 2005.
Fresh evidence from experts last summer reconfirmed there was no connection between the medics' work and the spread of HIV at the Benghazi hospital.
But it fell on deaf ears when late last year the Libyan court again sentenced the nurses and Palestinian doctor to death.
"We have the deepest sympathy for the afflicted children and their families and welcome the practical assistance given to the Libyan medical services by the EU," added Mr Van Orden.
"But the catastrophe at Benghazi has never been helped by the creation of another separate tragedy through the incarceration of innocent people."