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Last Updated: Monday, 26 January, 2004, 20:56 GMT
End in sight for Libya Aids trial

By Paul Wood
BBC correspondent in Benghazi, Libya

The trial in Libya of five nurses and a doctor from Bulgaria charged with deliberately giving the Aids virus to 400 children may soon be over.

The medics are accused by the Libyan leader, Colonel Gaddafi, of taking orders from the CIA and the Israeli secret service, Mossad.

The trial has been going on in the city of Benghazi for almost five years.

Hopes are high that the medics may be released as early as next month, after Libya's attempts to end its isolation.

The idea that the CIA and Mossad paid Bulgarian nurses to murder Libyan children in order to destabilise the country may seem too fantastic for any spy novel.

But for the past five years, it has been an accepted fact in Libya - a theory put forward by Colonel Gaddafi himself, and used as the basis for the trial of the six Bulgarians.

Torture

The nurses have called expert witnesses, including one of the team which discovered the Aids virus, who said this was an epidemic caused by poor hygiene at the hospital, not by any international conspiracy.

Nurses on trial in Benghazi courtroom
The nurses are accused of conspiring with foreign agents
The Bulgarians did sign confessions, but they told me they were tortured by the police, with daily beatings, sexual assault and electric shocks.

The police officers accused of doing this have now been charged themselves - their defence: that they were tortured before signing their confessions too.

They now sit at the back of the same courtroom as the Bulgarians.

This trial is a sometimes-bizarre affair.

Western diplomats say the prosecutions arose because the authorities simply needed someone to blame for a tragedy which has caused outrage in Libya - more than 400 children infected in Benghazi.

Now though, with Libya trying to rejoin the international community, there have been hints that the Bulgarians' long nightmare may be about to end.

In fact, what happens to them now is being seen by many as a test of just how serious Libya is about ended its long, and sometimes rather paranoid, isolation.


SEE ALSO:
Medics 'did not spread Aids'
04 Sep 03  |  Africa
Libya pursues Bulgarian Aids case
04 Jun 02  |  Middle East
Libya court rejects HIV plot charges
17 Feb 02  |  Middle East
Libya delays Aids case verdicts
23 Dec 01  |  Middle East


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