Amnesty International has said it was concerned that 16 health professionals on trial in Libya will not receive a fair trial and may be sentenced to death.
The defendants, nine Libyans, six Bulgarians and a Palestinian were arrested in January 1999. For ten months, they were denied access to lawyers and family. They are accused of infecting about 400 Libyan children with the HIV virus while working in a Libyan hospital. The charges fall under three articles of the Libyan Penal Code that allow for the death sentence.
Libyan authorities claim that 23 of those children died at the end of 1999.
The London-based human rights watchdog, said it was concerned over allegation of claims of torture and serious irregularities in pre-trial proceedings. The trial began on 7 February in Tripoli but the hearings have been postponed three times.
When the trial began, only the Bulgarians and the Palestinian were allowed to see defense lawyers. In mid-May, the Libyan defense lawyer for the Bulgarian defendants told reporters that he had had only two meetings with his clients. The defense lawyer said that two of the Bulgarians and the Palestinian claimed that their confessions had been obtained under duress. Bulgarian officials complained that Libya had not responded to their demands that the defendant's allegations of were obtained under duress be investigated.
Amnesty International called on Libya to conduct an impartial and prompt investigation into allegations of mistreatment and torture of the defendants and to ensure the defendants adequate access to relatives, lawyers, and doctors.
"The Libyan authorities should ensure that the defendants are tried according to international standards of a fair trial," Amnesty said. "And give assurances that the defendants will not be sentenced to death."
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