The six health workers — five nurses and one physician — accused and convicted and sentenced to death for practices that passed HIV/AIDS to hundreds of Libyan children in a series of trials devoid of evidence, reason and justice — are home in Bulgaria today.
The president of Bulgaria pardoned them of any wrongdoing. Details from the Associated Press via The New York Times:
The medics, who were sentenced to life in prison for allegedly contaminating children with the AIDS virus, arrived on a plane with French first lady Cecilia Sarkozy and the EU’s commissioner for foreign affairs, Benita Ferrero-Waldner.
The six came down the steps from the airplane and were welcomed on the tarmac by family members who hugged them, one lifting the Palestinian doctor off the ground.
They were given bouquets of flowers, and Bulgaria’s president and prime minister were on hand, greeting the nurses and Sarkozy, who had been part of the delegation that negotiated the group’s return.
Their defense had been that the contamination of tools used in the hospital caused the infections before the six arrived to help out. Before the second trial, an international team of scientists tracked mutations and the evolution of the viruses in each victim, and produced DNA evidence that proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that the infections had occurred prior to any of the six arriving in Libya. The evidence was not granted credence by Libya’s courts, and the six were reconvicted and resentenced. Their release was negotiated only after European sources created a fund to handsomely compensate the victims’ families.
Thank you, readers, for your e-mails, letters and phone calls. In the U.S., it was the work of Nature writer Declan Butler, and bloggers like Revere at Effect Measure, and Tara C. Smith at Aetiology who carried the torch for justice. Give them some credit.
- Photo by Dimitar Dilkoff/Agence France-Presse — Getty Image
- Also see: “Mrs. Sarkozy goes to Libya, rattling officials,” New York Times
- Declan Butler wrote a lengthy summary for Nature last week.