Healthcare workers appeal death sentence

June 16, 2007 at 1:22 AM
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TRIPOLI, Libya, June 16 (UPI) -- Five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor are preparing their final appeal of death sentences for infecting hundreds of Libyan children with AIDS.

The case has attracted international attention during the eight years the defendants have been imprisoned. Prosecutors say the healthcare workers deliberately infected the children with HIV because they wanted to find a cure for the disease, but defense lawyers say they are scapegoats for sloppy procedures and lack of hygiene at the hospital in Benghazi.

The Libyan Supreme Court of Justice has scheduled a hearing for June 20, to decide whether to hear the appeal, the Sofia News Agency reported. The court cannot order a new trial but can confirm the sentence, quash it or reduce it to a lesser sentence.

If the court confirms the sentence, the six can ask the Libyan Supreme Judiciary Council for a reprieve.

Luc Montagnier, the French scientist who was one of the discoverers of the HIV virus, has come to the defense of the medical workers, pointing out that the epidemic at the hospital began before they arrived and continued after they were arrested.

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