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Last Updated: Saturday, 30 December 2006, 11:28 GMT
Gaddafi rejects release of medics
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi
Libya has faced strong criticism over the conduct of the trials
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has rejected calls for the release of six foreign medics sentenced to death for infecting children with HIV/Aids.

Those who committed crimes must accept the consequences, he said.

Libya has been under increasing pressure because of international doubts over the fairness of the trial.

Five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor have been tried and found guilty twice of deliberately infecting more than 400 children with HIV.

Colonel Gaddafi stressed the "the independence of the Libyan judicial system", and he rejected what he called "Western intervention and pressure in this affair".

The medics have been in detention since 1999, during which time 52 of the 426 infected children have died of Aids.

Academic bodies have argued that the guilty verdicts run counter to scientific evidence.

Defence lawyers have said that the medics will file an appeal against the new verdict with the Supreme Court.

'Unhygienic hospitals'

The medics have protested their innocence throughout, retracting confessions that they said were obtained under torture and arguing that they are being made scapegoats for unhygienic hospitals.

Condemned Bulgarian nurses and Palestinian doctor
The six foreign medics were arrested in 1999

Lawyers for the medics have argued that the HIV virus was present in the hospital, in the town of Benghazi, before the nurses began working there in 1998.

Medical experts including the French co-discoverer of the HIV virus had testified on their behalf.

Oxford University in the UK said the verdict ran counter to findings by scientists from its Zoology Department.

A research team had concluded that "the subtype of HIV involved began infecting patients long before March 1998, the date the prosecution claims the crime began", a statement from the university said.

Libya has asked for 10m euros (6.7m) compensation to be paid to each of the families of victims, suggesting the death sentences could be commuted in return.

But Bulgaria has rejected the proposal, saying any payment would be seen as an admission of guilt.

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