The Libyan Supreme Court has confirmed the death sentences on six foreign medics, convicted of deliberately infecting more than 400 children with HIV. The President of the EU Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, says he regrets the decision, but is confident a solution can be found. The five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor were not in court for the five minute hearing. They have already spent more than eight years in jail, after being found guilty of administering tainted blood at a hospital in Benghazi in 1998. The six were sentenced despite evidence which showed that the epidemic broke out a year before the staff arrived at the hospital. They claim they were tortured into confessing. The political repercussions of the case have hindered Libya’s efforts to improve relations with the west. The German Foreign Minister, Frank Walter Steinmeier, and the EU’s External Relations Commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, have both visited the accused. She has called on Libya to show clemency. The US President George Bush has repeatedly called for their release. The case is being closely followed in Bulgaria. One of the nurses’ former colleagues, Svetlana Koleva, is convinced they should be freed.“They are absolutely innocent,” she said. “I know Nasia Nenova personally from school and she is a wonderful person, very honest and competent. I wish every patient to have a nurse like her.”
Next week, the case goes to the government controlled High Judicial Council, which has the power to commute the sentences, or even grant a pardon.