Mixed Signals, But Some Hope in Libyan Trial of Nurses, Doctor

Mixed Signals, But Some Hope in Libyan Trial of Nurses, Doctor

Paradoxically, the Libyan supreme court's verdict Wednesday confirming the death sentences of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor found guilty of infecting children with the AIDS virus may be the beginning of the end of their eight-year ordeal and not the final step towards their death.

The five nurses -- Snazhana Dimitrova, Nasya Nenova, Valya Cherveniashka, Valentina Siropulo, and Kristina Valcheva, and the Palestinian doctor, Ashram Juma Hajuj, were arrested in 1999 and charged with injecting 438 children with HIV-tainted blood in a hospital in the Libyan coastal town of Benghazi. Fifty-six of the children have since died.

At their trial, all six pleaded not guilty, claiming that confessions had been obtained under torture. Internationally recognized AIDS experts testified that the virus was already present in the hospital due to negligent hygiene standards even before the nurses' arrival, and the children were already infected. Still, all six were found guilty in 2004 and sentenced to be shot. Since then, the international community has been trying to pressure Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to reverse what is widely seen as a miscarriage of justice, and hopefully to grant a pardon to the convicted nurses and the doctor.

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