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Sunday, 17 February, 2002, 13:20 GMT
Libya court rejects HIV plot charges
African Aids patient
Aids is a major killer throughout Africa
By Heba Saleh in Tripoli

A court in Libya has said there is no evidence of a plot to undermine state security in the case of seven foreign medical workers accused of infecting children with HIV.

The People's Court in Tripoli, which deals with matters of state security, has referred the case to an ordinary criminal court.

The Palestinian doctor and six Bulgarian medical workers on trial have been in detention for three years.

The decision makes their case less fraught, but they still face charges carrying the death sentence.

Mossad and CIA suspected

Bulgarian public opinion had been alarmed when the Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, spoke about a possible conspiracy by the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad or the American CIA.

But in Sunday's hearing at the People's Court, attended by foreign diplomats, the Libyan judge said the only incontestable fact so far was that a number of children had died.

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi
Bulgaria has sought the help of Muammar Gaddafi's son
The Bulgarian foreign minister had visited Tripoli at the end of last year to discuss the case with Colonel Gaddafi and his son, Seif al-Islam.

It seems these contacts are now bearing fruit.

The defendants, who all deny the charges, have been moved out of prison and placed under house arrest.

Some of them say they were forced to make confessions under torture.

Their Libyan lawyer has argued to the court that the HIV infections were probably due to poor hygiene and the reuse of syringes in the hospital where the children contracted the virus.

The BBC's Simon Crutchley
"The defendants all deny the charges"
See also:

23 Dec 01 | Middle East
Libya delays Aids case verdicts
22 Sep 01 | Middle East
Verdict due in Libyan HIV trial
03 Apr 00 | Middle East
Aids trial adjourned
28 Feb 00 | Middle East
Libya postpones HIV trial
06 Feb 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Bulgaria
08 Feb 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Libya
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