Libya death row medics given more time to defend slander charges

[JURIST] A Libyan court Sunday granted the defense team for six foreign medics [JURIST news archive] accused of slandering police agents an additional two weeks to prepare for trial. Five Bulgarian nurses and one Palestinian doctor were sentenced to death [JURIST report] in December for deliberately infecting 426 children with the HIV virus. The medics have maintained that they were tortured [Human Rights Watch report] by Libyan police officers into admitting guilt, and those claims prompted the slander charges. Earlier this month the Secretary of the Libyan Foreign Affairs Committee [official website, in Arabic] Suleiman Shahoumi indicated that the medics will not be executed [JURIST news report], but they still face up to three years in prison on the slander charges. The medics have so far refused to retract their accusations. The slander trial will reconvene on March 25. AFP has more.

The medics were imprisoned in Libya in 1999, but say they are innocent and are being scapegoated for unsanitary conditions in the Benghazi hospital where they worked. An independent report [text, PDF] by leading experts including Luc Montagnier, who co-discovered the HIV virus, supported their claim. International medical and human rights groups have vigorously criticized Libya's treatment of the prisoners.

 

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