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Sunday, 23 December, 2001, 06:32 GMT
Libya delays Aids case verdicts
 Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi
Gaddafi says foreign intelligence forces are to blame
Verdicts in the trial of six Bulgarian accused of deliberately infecting nearly 400 Libyan children with the HIV virus have been delayed until February.

It was the second time that verdicts have been postponed in the case, which started in February.

This is horrible, this is impossible!

Dr Zdravko Georgiev
The six Bulgarians - five nurses and a doctor - could face the death penalty if found guilty of injecting the children with HIV-contaminated blood.

The judge said the postponement was necessary "to review the files of evidence further".

The trial has provoked strong feelings in Bulgaria after two of the defendants alleged they had been tortured and made confessions under duress.

Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy has been in Libya to discuss the case with officials.

The trial has also raised concern among human rights groups who have complained about reports that HIV-contaminated plasma was discovered at a defendant's apartment while she was in police custody, and the refusal of the court to allow expert opinion from Switzerland and France.

Long delay

The medics, who deny the charges, had been working at a children's hospital in the northern city of Benghazi and have been in prison for almost three years.

A Palestinian doctor and nine Libyans have also been charged in the case, in which Libya says more than 20 children have already died.

The accused are charged with "premeditated murder with the aim of undermining Libyan security". All have pleaded not guilty.

Their lawyers have argued that the infections stemmed from poor hygiene at the hospital where syringes are reused many times.

Bulgarian radio said that the sole doctor among the accused, Zdravko Georgiev, cried out: "This is horrible, this is impossible!" when the postponement was announced, saying that he was being held in a cell with 56 other men.

"The adjournment creates additional tension and has a bad effect on the health of the defendants," said defence lawyer Vladimir Sheitanov.

Mr Passy said he had faith in the Libyan justice system, saying that it was "better to announce a just verdict in this case, instead of a speedy verdict which could be against the interests of the accused".

See also:

22 Sep 01 | Middle East
Verdict due in Libyan HIV trial
03 Apr 00 | Africa
Aids trial adjourned
28 Feb 00 | Middle East
Libya postpones HIV trial
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