Bulgaria is making moves to have six of its citizens transferred home from Libya, after their death sentences were commuted to life-imprisonment. The five nurses and a Palestinian doctor with Bulgarian citizenship were convicted of infecting more than 400 children with HIV at a hospital in Benghazi.
The Bulgarian president, Georgi Parvanov said: “This decision stirs up controversial feelings. The good news is that the death sentences have been commuted. I want to assure all six medics that Bulgaria is doing everything for a quick agreement.”
The six claimed their confessions had been obtained under torture. They were further accused of defaming the policeman in charge of the interrogation, an accusation which has now been thrown out. Libya commuted the sentences after the families of the infected children accepted compensation payments amounting to nearly three-quarters of a million euros each.
The EU’s commissioner for external relations, Benita Ferrero-Waldner says Brussels has not paid any money to the Libyan government. The decision of the children’s families to accept the money was key to having the sentences commuted. Now, Bulgaria is making a formal request to Libya to transfer the six home, to serve their sentences there. The two countries have a prisoner exchange deal signed in 1984. It is possible that if they return home they could be pardoned by the Bulgarian President.