Thursday, May 11, 2006
NO BAIL FOR NURSES AND DOCTOR HELD IN LIBYA
Lawyers for five Bulgarian nurses and one Palestinian doctor accused of infecting Libyan children with HIV unsucesfully sought their release on bail at a hearing which set a new trial date on Thursday. The nurses had been sentenced to death along with a Palestinian doctor until last year, when Libya's supreme court overturned the verdicts and sent the case back to a lower court.
The following is an Aljazeera report. The second report is from the Sofia News Agency.
Libya denies bail to medical workers
The death sentences were overturned in 2005
The Libyan court retrying five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor on charges of deliberately infecting hundreds of children with HIV, has rejected the defence teams' request to release the medical workers on bail.
The decision came in the first session on Thursday of the new trial that Libya's Supreme Court ordered late last year after it overturned death sentences handed down against the six in 2004.
Judge Mahmoud Huwaissa, the presiding judge on a three-member tribunal, rejected the request for bail after the prosecutor argued that the defendants might try to flee from the country.
The prosecutor added that one had already attempted to escape from prison, but he did not elaborate.
Thursday's brief session at a Tripoli criminal court, attended by the six defendants, dealt with procedural matters.
Huwaissa adjourned the trial to June 13.
Treatment of accused
Ashraf al-Hazouz, the Palestinian doctor, told The Associated Press in the courtroom that "we are also victims like those children, but we hope that this tragedy will end soon".
Al-Hazouz also said he had not been allowed to speak to his family for the past five months, and said he wanted to receive the same treatment as the Bulgarian nurses, implying they enjoyed privileges not given to him.
Victims' families demand financial compensation
The six have been in Libyan custody since 1999.
The 426 children were said to have been infected with HIV, the virus that causes Aids, at a hospital in the Libyan city of Benghazi, as part of an alleged experiment to find a cure for the disease.
Europe, the US and human-rights groups have accused Libyan authorities of blaming the defendants for poor hygiene that they say caused the infections.
The medical workers first stood trial in 2004.
About 50 of the children have died, and the case has fuelled outrage among the families of the victims.
Tripoli has suggested that the nurses could go free if money were provided to cover financial compensation for the families of the victims and medical treatment for the children.
The victims' families have demanded 4.4 billion euro ($5.43 billion) from a group of international donors trying to settle the dispute, although Bulgaria has refused to pay any compensation, saying it would be a recognition of guilt.
But the US, EU, Libya and Bulgaria have agreed to back the formation of an aid fund, and are seeking ways to help the victims and their families.
The convictions have become a major sticking point to Libya's efforts to emerge from decades of diplomatic isolation.
Bulgarian Medics Retrial Adjourned for June 13
The Tripoli Criminal Court postponed the re-trial against the five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor for June 13.
The Libyan lawyer on the defence Osman Bizanti immediately asked for the nurses' release on bail, but the court decided to leave them in jail after prosecutors argued that they might try and flee the country.
The decision came in the first session of the new trial that Libya's Supreme Court ordered late last year after overturning death sentences handed down against the six in 2004.
Thursday's brief court session, attended by the six defendants, dealt with procedural matters.
The defendants - Kristiana Vulcheva, Nassya Nenova, Valentina Siropoulo, Valya Chervenyashka and Snezhana Dimitrova and Palestinian doctor Ashraf Al-Hadjudj - are charged with causing a HIV epidemic in Benghazi in the late 1990s.
The nurses, detained since 1999, had been sentenced to death by firing squad along with the Palestinian. It was on 25 December 2005 when Libya's Supreme Court overturned the verdicts and sent the case back to a lower court.
The case has become a hostage to Libya's efforts to put an end to three decades of diplomatic isolation. Bulgaria has pooled efforts with Western allies, the European Union and the United States seeking to prove the medics were innocent.
They point to evidence that the medics were tortured to confess as well as a testimony by AIDS experts that they were not working at the hospital when the epidemic broke.
The trial has been developing under strong pressure on the side of enraged families of the 426 infected children.