Bulgaria pardons HIV medics27th July 2007
Bulgaria's president, Georgi Parvanov, has issued a pardon to five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor accused of infecting Libyan children with HIV.
The "Tripoli Six", who were sentenced to death twice in a Libyan court, were released to Bulgaria under an agreement between the European Union and Libya, which accused them of intentionally infecting hundreds of children at the hospital where they worked, with HIV.
The six nurses and the doctor, who recently became a Bulgarian citizen, were pardoned on their arrival in Bulgaria and were freed immediately after spending eight years in Libyan jails.
The Bulgarian government, the EU and Washington have all rejected the charges against the six medical workers, saying that the HIV epidemic in the Libyan city of Benghazi was already under way before the six arrived.
Libya last week commuted the death sentences it passed on the medics. The ruling by the country's High Judicial Council changed the sentences handed down to five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor to life imprisonment as part of a deal in which US$1 million in the equivalent of blood money has been paid to the 460 families involved in the case.
Libya had apparently expected the medics would serve their remaining sentences after their transfer, quoting a clause in the prisoner exchange agreement to that effect.
International lawyers confirmed that the pardon was legal, although Tripoli has condemned the move, calling for Interpol to rearrest the medics.
Political analysts said Libya's formal protest was probably aimed mostly at a domestic audience.
The medics have always said they were innocent and that their "confessions" were extracted under torture.
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