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Tuesday, 4 June, 2002, 03:50 GMT 04:50 UK
Libya pursues Bulgarian Aids case
African Aids patient
Aids is a major killer throughout Africa
Prosecutors in Libya have renewed the case against seven medical workers on charges of deliberately infecting children with HIV, the virus that can lead to Aids.

The two doctors - a Bulgarian and a Palestinian - and five Bulgarian nurses have been held in detention since February 1999.

In February, they were cleared of plotting to undermine state security.

The case has aroused diplomatic concern, with the Bulgarian foreign minister travelling to Tripoli late last year for talks with Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi.

The defendants have retracted confessions they made earlier, saying that they were obtained under duress.

The seven are also accused of illegally producing alcohol, having extra-marital sexual relations, and black market currency dealing.

Damages claim

Almost 400 children were found to be infected with HIV at the al-Fateh children's hospital in Benghazi, where the Bulgarians worked.

Of these, 23 have now died of Aids-related diseases.

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

But lawyers representing the children's families have filed a claim for financial compensation.

The case is now being held in an ordinary criminal court, instead of the special People's Court.

However, the defendants could still face the death penalty if found guilty.

See also:

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