Libya distributing money to HIV families

Libya has paid funds to more than half the families of Libyan children with HIV under a deal that could free six foreign medics condemned to death for infecting them, a spokesman for the families said on Tuesday.

Libya distributing money to HIV families
Libya has paid funds to more than half the families of Libyan children with HIV under a deal that could free six foreign medics condemned to death for infecting them, a spokesman for the families said on Tuesday.

The financial settlement may bring to a close the eight-year legal case surrounding the medics and the children, and remove a major obstacle to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's return to the international fold after years of diplomatic isolation.

"More than half of the families have received the compensation money and the remaining families would get the pay-out within the next few hours," spokesman Idriss Lagha told Reuters.

He said a deal should be announced later on Tuesday, once all the families have received their money. The families would then send a declaration to the government's High Judicial Council allowing it to decide the medics' fate.

The medical workers -- five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor -- were sentenced to death in December after being convicted of intentionally starting an HIV epidemic at a children's hospital in the city of Benghazi.

In jail since 1999, the medics say they are innocent and that they were tortured to confess. Foreign HIV experts say the infections started before the workers arrived at the hospital and are more likely to be the result of poor hygiene.

Relatives of the children have said the infections were part of a Western attempt to undermine Muslims and Libya.

Fifty-six of the children have died and the case has unfolded against a backdrop of widespread anger in Libya over their suffering.

Libya's Supreme Court upheld the death sentences last week, placing the medics' fate in the hands of the High Judicial Council, which is controlled by the government and has the power to commute sentences or issue pardons.

The Council will only rule on the fate of the medics if the families accept the deal with the European Union, which has campaigned on behalf of its new member Bulgaria to have the nurses freed and sent home.

"All the families have received checks for the money," a source close to the deal said. "But the families see the checks not the real money. For them, they will be sure of being paid only when they bring checks to the bank and cash them."

Under the agreement, the families of at least 426 children infected with the virus that causes AIDS will receive more than $400 million, the source told Reuters.

"The families would make a statement today after the completion of the deal to authorize the High Judicial Council to take the appropriate decision," said the source, who did not want to be named because of the sensitive nature of the talks.

Othman Bizanti, a leading lawyer for the nurses, said he had "great hope" that the council would free the medics.

Bulgaria and its allies in the EU and the United States say Libya is using the medics as scapegoats to deflect criticism of from a dilapidated health care sector.

They have also suggested that not freeing the nurses would carry a diplomatic cost for Gaddafi, who is trying to emerge from more than three decades of isolation after scrapping a prohibited weapons program in 2003.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 17 Temmuz 2007, 18:56
YORUM EKLE