Libyan Court Throws Out Some AIDS Accusations; Case Sent Back to Prosecutors
In Libya, a Court for National Security cases ended its trial of six Bulgarian medics, charged with infecting hundreds of Libyan children with AIDS, throwing out accusations of sabotage and cooperation with foreign parties and sending the case back to prosecutors Sunday, according to the Associated Press.
The Bulgarians, comprised of five nurses and one doctor, have been on trial for a period of two years, accused of injecting an amount of 393 children at a Libyan hospital with HIV-contaminated blood. They pleaded innocent to the charges, which also included murder and conspiracy.
The People's Court in Libya, which hears only national security cases, had postponed its verdict twice last year and stated it would be announced on Sunday.
However, the presiding Judge, Ibrahim Abu Shinaf, said the court was sending the case to the prosecutor's office without a verdict because it did not involve, “national security” matters.
“After going through the evidence, the court has found that this case has nothing to do with state security or acts of sabotage and there is no tangible evidence of such crimes,” Shinaf explained.
Prosecutors are probably going to refer the case to a criminal court. It was unclear as to what charges the defendants would face in a criminal trial, however they could still include murder and conspiracy, and the penalty for murder could be death.
A defense lawyer as well as the Bulgarian government welcomed the Libyan Court’s ruling. “The decision is a positive step in the interest of the accused after the most important accusations, sabotage and cooperation with foreign parties, were dropped,” attorney Othman el-Bezanti told AP.
The trial, which began way back in February 1999, has drawn world-wide criticism, with Bulgaria calling it a political case and Amnesty International claiming there were “serious irregularities” in the pretrial proceedings.
In Sofia, Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov said the development was encouraging, “I believe that the new investigation will acquit the Bulgarian medics of the gravest charges brought against them,” he stated in a statement issued by his office on Sunday.
In recent months, Bulgaria increased its diplomatic campaign for greater transparency in the trial, and Tripoli seemed to respond.
Early this month, Bulgaria said the defendants had been transferred from a Tripoli prison to a guarded house.
Parvanov thanked Seif el-Islam, the son of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, for “his role of an impartial monitor of the trial.” Seif recently pledged to keep a close eye on the case.
During the trial, defense lawyers accused Libya of trying to divert attention from the poor conditions prevalent at state-run hospitals, saying the infections at the Al-Fateh hospital in Benghazi resulted from poor hygiene and the reuse of syringes. Twenty-three of the children infected at the hospital reportedly developed AIDS and died.
Many Bulgarian doctors and engineers work in Libya, where salaries are higher than earned at home. Nine Libyans are being tried on negligence charges in the case. (Albawaba.com)
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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