LIBYA. SUPREME COURT SCRAPS NURSES' HIV DEATH SENTENCES
|Five of the formerly convicted medics who will now be retried
December 25, 2005: Libya's Supreme Court scrapped death sentences against five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor and ordered a retrial of the cases which have harmed Tripoli's efforts to build ties with the West.
The five nurses and the doctor, jailed since 1999 and convicted of infecting children with the HIV virus, will leave the death rows of their prisons to wait for retrial, an official said. They had been sentenced to death by firing squad.
"The five nurses and the Palestinian doctor will not be considered as prisoners condemned to death after today's ruling. They will become only defendants waiting for retrial," a court official, who did not want to be named, told Reuters.
The Supreme Court accepted appeals against a lower court ruling both on substance and procedure, their lawyers said. The ruling followed agreement last week between Libya and Bulgaria to set up a fund to help families of the sick children.
The six medical workers had been convicted of infecting 426 Libyan children with the HIV virus in the Mediterranean port city of Benghazi. More than 50 of the children have died.
They said they were innocent and their confessions extracted under torture. AIDS experts have said the outbreak started before the nurses arrived and was probably caused by poor hygiene.
"The court has accepted the appeals by the nurses and the doctor and sends the cases back to the lower court for retrial," Ali Alouss, the Supreme Court presiding judge, told an appeals hearing.
Lawyers told Reuters that meant the death sentences were canceled and the lower court in Benghazi which had earlier issued the sentences would retry the cases. (Sources: Reuters, 25/12/2005)