Bulgaria asks Libya to transfer HIV medics

Bulgaria asked Libya on Thursday to allow it to take custody of six foreign medics jailed for infecting hundreds of children with HIV after Tripoli commuted their death sentences to life imprisonment.

After intensive diplomatic talks and payment of hundreds of millions of dollars to the families of 460 HIV victims, Libya commuted the verdicts on Tuesday, opening the way for the medics’ transfer home under a 1984 prisoner-exchange agreement.

Once they are sent to Sofia, the six—five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor who became a Bulgarian citizen recently—could be pardoned by the Balkan country’s president.

“All necessary papers for the transfer have been sent to the Libyan authorities today [Thursday]. We are hoping for a swift answer,” Bulgarian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Dimitar Tsanchev said.

EU newcomer Bulgaria and its allies in Washington and Brussels, who say the medics are innocent and were tortured to confess, reacted with relief to the Tuesday ruling, but cautioned it was not the end to the eight-year long ordeal.

They have suggested that not freeing the nurses would hurt Libyan leader Moammar Gadaffi’s efforts to emerge from decades of diplomatic isolation, a process he began by scrapping a prohibited weapons programme in 2003.

In Paris, EU Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner called on Libya to speed up the process to allow the quick homecoming of the medics.

“We are working, naturally, with the Libyan authorities ... it’s a legal procedure.
That’s one thing. The other is the speed of the Libyan authorities,” she told reporters after meeting French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner in Paris.

“We would like to have them back tomorrow [Friday].”

She, however, declined to engage with dates for the return of the medics and said that a final agreement that could lead to their release has not yet been reached.

“It’s not yet done. It’s not yet done. No, for that we really do have to work, and we are working together, with all the others,” she told reporters.

Ferrero-Waldner also met President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is expected to visit Libya next Wednesday to help resolve the case.—Reuters

Client Media Releases

All things 'creepy crawly' at award-winning UKZN stand
Tellos founder to present at ITWeb AI 2019
The rand: Before, during and after Elections 2019