The final act in the drama of five Bulgarian nurses and one Palestinian doctor imprisoned for seven years and sentenced to death by firing squad in Libya after being accused of deliberately infecting over 400 chidren with HIV in a children’s hospital in Bengazi (see posts here) is now being played out in the Libyan capital of Tripoli:
Libya’s Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld death sentences on six foreign medics for infecting Libyan children with HIV, a ruling that paves the way for moves by Muammar Gaddafi’s government to win their freedom.
Experts said the ruling completed the role of the judiciary in the highly-politicised trial of the five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor, and Libya’s executive can now step in and seek to secure their release subject to a deal with the families of the children.
The case is expected to go to a government-controlled High Judicial Council which will have the power to commute the sentence or even pardon them. (Reuters)
The case has become a cause célèbre for the international scientific community, including, significantly, the scientific blogosphere. Affirming the death sentence is a (regrettably) necessary first step in resolving the issue and, paradoxically, saving the lives and obtaining the freedom of the accused, whose confessions they say were coerced by torture. A precondition for a positive outcome for the accused was an agreement between the EU and Libya’s Gaddafi Foundation charity on funding lifetime care for the children, an agreement said to be in the tens of millions of dollars.
The announcement today that the deal has been affirmed along with news that the High Judicial Council will meet on Monday is believed to be a signal to the international community the sentences will be commuted. Until the Tripoli 6 have been repatriated and are free we can only update you on developments.
Many here have been following this story and were important, along with thousands of others, in letting the Libyan government know your concerns when we originally posted on this. We hope to be able to put the final punctuation mark to this story soon. We will keep you posted.