Here is the latest on those medicos being held in a Libyan jail accused of infecting Libyan children with HIV.
The Libyan Supreme Court postponed for the second time the re-trial of the fiveBulgarian nurses charged with deliberate infection of over 400 children with HIV, Reuters news agency reported.
The lawyers of the Bulgarians complained about the new delay and requested the released of the medics on bail. Lawyers said that 'seven and a half years of detention was enough'. The presiding judge Mahmoud Haouissa promised to speed up the trial 'to avoid tiring the defendants further'.
Before the latest postpnement a CD proving the innocence of Bulgaria's Libya-tried nurses was presented in court, Bulgarian press said Wednesday.
The disc contains part of a Libyan lawyer's interview on HIV infections that occurred before the Bulgarians arrived in Benghazi.
There was a trial over the 17 HIV cases, in the early 90s, the recording says. But Libya decided that the incidents were a matter of national security, and the case was secreted.
Those proceedings prove that there was HIV outbreak at the Benghazi hospital before the Bulgarians took on medical jobs there, the Bulgarian press says.
It was not revealed how did the defence get hold of the CD.
Bulgarian solicitor Plamen Yalnazov handed the material to a judge, even before prosecutors knew about the evidence, correspondents said.
Luc Montagnier, who discovered the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) was asked recently if the Libyan children were not infected by the nurses, then how did it happen. He replied:
“I will refer back to the so-called “scientific proof” of the prosecution. In fact the infections, at least as far as we found out because we did not have access to all the information on the case, started even before the Bulgarian nurses came to work in the hospital in Benghazi. And this was a known fact as early as 1998, before the nurses were arrested. Therefore there is no coincidence that the nurses were there. Of course, then the question would be: if the Bulgarian nurses are not guilty then who is? I want to say here that as early as in 1999 we visited Libyan hospitals and found out serious hygiene problems. We made a report and sent it to the Libyan Health Ministry but it was neglected. There is information that there are children who have been born infected but this is too difficult to prove.
We forget something else – that there are also adults infected with the virus. 4 Libyan nurses were infected with the virus in the same period as the children. And we can hardly assume that someone injected them without them understanding. 4 nurses out of the 50 that work in the hospital is a big percent not to pay attention to it."
The five Bulgarian nurses themselves this week refused to talk to the Bulgarian journalists covering the trial. The nurses said that they will talk to the journalists upon their return to Bulgaria.
"We've been in jail for 8 years. There are many things we want to tell you, but in Sofia, we are tired and we want to go home," said Kristiana Vulcheva one of the nurses accused of deliberately infecting over 400 Libyan children with HIV. She also commented that they feel abandoned.
The following is from Arab News.
Libya Reopens Bulgaria Nurses’ AIDS Trial
TRIPOLI, 14 June 2006 — The retrial of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor accused of contaminating hundreds of Libyan children with AIDS reopened yesterday with the judge calling for the process to be speeded up. Judge Mahmoud Al-Huweissa adjourned the trial to June 20 after a brief session and said that in future any petitions would need to be filed in writing. “From now on we will have a weekly hearing because this case has dragged on too long,” he said.
Bulgaria welcomed the decision to pick up the pace. “The Libyan court’s declared intention to meet weekly on the case offers hopes that (the case) will be decided with the shortest possible delay,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Dimitar Tsanchev said. “We hope that the testimony of all the witnesses called by the defense and the arguments it will present will be reviewed with the maximum objectivity and taken into account in the court’s ruling,” he added.
While the nurses’ Libyan lawyer has been seeking their release on bail, a previous hearing on May 11 was adjourned for procedural reasons and the accused continue to be held in custody. The team of Bulgarian defense lawyers for the five nurses called for a new expert opinion on what caused the hospital AIDS outbreak, which infected the children as the two existing assessments were incompatible. Libyan experts said the outbreak was knowingly sparked by the nurses.
But at their first trial, a co-discoverer of the AIDS virus, Luc Montagnier, and Italian professor Vitorio Colizzi said the disease had spread before the nurses’ arrival in Libya and was due to poor hygiene in the Benghazi hospital.
One of the defense lawyers, Plamen Yalnazov, also asked the court to accept written testimony from Bulgarian engineer Smilian Tachev who was arrested together with the nurses but freed six months later. Tachev has told Trud newspaper in Bulgaria that the nurses were tortured in detention.
The Palestinian doctor on trial, Ashraf Hajjuj, for his part, has complained about the conditions in which he was being held, and also charged he was being discriminated against.
The nurses, meanwhile, were quoted as refusing to meet Bulgarian journalists in the Judeida prison. “We have been here for eight years now and we have no more to say. We have a lot to talk to you about in Sofia but we have nothing to say here,” said Kristiana Valcheva.
Jailed since 1999, the nurses and the doctor were condemned to death in May 2004 at an initial trial in the eastern city of Benghazi. They were convicted of infecting 426 Libyan children with AIDS while working at the local hospital. The six, who proclaim their innocence, appealed to the Libyan Supreme Court which ordered a new trial last Dec. 25.