Libya top court upholds death sentence of foreign AIDS medics

[JURIST] The Libyan Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the death sentences [JURIST report] of six foreign medics [JURIST news archive] accused of knowingly infecting over 400 Libyan patients with the HIV virus. The court's decision will now be considered by the executive-controlled High Judicial Council, which will meet next week to discuss the case. The council can uphold, overrule or modify the verdicts in the case. Observers have said that the Libyan government is likely to overturn the convictions if western states agree to its demands to provide medical expenses and financial compensation for the patients. On Tuesday the Gaddafi International Foundation for Charity Association [official website] said that a settlement [JURIST report] had been reached between the families of the victims and the medics, though details about the reported deal are still vague. Libya has previously demanded up to €10 million euros [JURIST report] (approximately $13 million) for each infected patient. Analysts say the ruling will placate Libyan public opinion, which has been heavily shaped by politicized media reports of the first high-profile HIV case in Libya [JURIST news archive], while a financial payment will be consistent with the Shari'a preference for compensatory "blood money," called diyah [backgrounder], over retribution.

The six medics, including five Bulgarian nurses and one Palestinian doctor, have remained imprisoned since 1999 and have consistently maintained their innocence, saying that they were being scapegoated for unsanitary conditions in the Libyan hospitals where they worked. The medics were sentenced to death in late 2006 in a second trial after the initial guilty verdict was overturned by the Libyan Supreme Court in 2005 and a retrial ordered [JURIST reports]. In announcing Wednesday's decision, Judge Fathi Dahan said that "the court has accepted the appeal in principal but rejects its content, therefore the court decided to uphold the verdict" against the medics.

Bulgaria and its allies, including the US [JURIST report] and the European Union, contend that the medics are innocent and have been tortured into admitting guilt [HRW report]. European leaders expressed regret [Reuters report] over Wednesday's ruling, but said that there was still hope for a positive solution that would free the medics. AP has more. BBC News has additional coverage.

 

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