[JURIST] The retrial of five Bulgarian nurses [JURIST report] and one Palestinian doctor accused of infecting over 400 Libyan patients, primarily children [JURIST news archive], with the HIV virus was adjourned Tuesday after resuming for only one day since a five week postponement [JURIST report] caused by the illness of leading defense lawyer Othmane Bizanti. Bizanti returned to court Tuesday and once against argued that the alleged confessions were coerced through torture, a sentiment echoed by Bulgaria and its allies, including the US [JURIST report] and the European Union. According to local media, the nurses, who have been incarcerated for seven years, claim that police forced them to undress [JURIST report], tortured them with insects and dogs, threatened them with HIV infection, withheld water and prevented them from sleeping. The defense has also argued that the infections were caused by hygiene problems and neglect [Reuters report] rather than intentional acts by the medics.
The six health workers were first convicted in May 2004 and sentenced to death [JURIST reports] for deliberately infecting the children, but the Libyan Supreme Court overturned the convictions [JURIST report] in December 2005 and ordered a retrial. The defendants, detained since 1999, previously argued that the children were infected with the virus before treatment. French Professor Luc Montagnier, the co-discover of the HIV virus, testified in the initial 2004 trial that the infection had spread in the children's hospital before the Bulgarian nurses began their contracts there. The retrial is set to resume on November 4. AFP has more. From Bulgaria, Novinite.com has local coverage.