Bulgaria condemns Libya verdicts

Bulgaria condemned death sentences imposed by a Libyan court on Tuesday on five of its nationals and a Palestinian doctor found guilty of deliberately infecting hundreds of children with the deadly HI virus.

Sofia demanded Libya’s leadership intervene in the case and called on the international community to put pressure on the North African state, which is trying to thaw ties with the West after three decades of diplomatic isolation.

“We appeal to the international community to categorically condemn the court’s decision,” Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev and President Georgi Parvanov said in a joint statement.

“And we appeal to the Libyan authorities to immediately become involved in the name of justice ... reject these absurd sentences, and free the nurses and the Palestinian doctor.”

The United States and the European Union, which Bulgaria joins on January 1, say Libya must let the nurses go, pointing to evidence they were tortured to confess and that the outbreak at the Benghazi hospital began before they started working there.

Analysts say freeing them would speed Libyan leader Moammar Gadaffi’s rapprochement.

But it could outrage the victims’ families in Benghazi, a bastion of anti-Gaddafi dissent, and put a spotlight on a dilapidated Libyan medical system that Western scientists say is the real culprit for the tragedy.

It is the second time the medics have been condemned to death on the same charges. They were first sentenced to face a firing squad in 2004, but that verdict was overturned last year.

The families of the infected children, over 50 of whom have died, have demanded â,¬10-million ($13,10-million) in compensation for each child—“blood money” under which the relatives would be able to quash the verdicts.

Bulgaria and its allies have refused to pay, saying that doing so would be an admission of guilt.

But, together with Brussels and Washington, it is trying to arrange medical aid, living expenses and treatment in Western hospitals for the families, which analysts say could appease the Libyans and prompt the medics’ release.

The families of the nurses, who have been jailed since 1999, were distraught.

“This is such a disgrace.
I simply cannot believe that such injustice can be done,” said Polina Dimitrova, daughter of nurse Snezhana Dimitrova. “I can only imagine how they [the condemned] feel—this must have crushed them.” - Reuters

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