SOFIA (AFP) â€” A Bulgarian prosecutor launched a judicial enquiry Wednesday against 11 Libyan police officers who allegedly tortured five Bulgarian nurses sentenced to death in Libya in a high-profile AIDS epidemic case.
“We have enough information against 11 Libyan police officers to now open a judicial enquiry into their actions between February 9, 1999 and May 1999,” Sofia’s chief prosecutor Nikolay Kokinov told a press conference Wednesday.
The officers “will be investigated and might eventually be brought to trial for having forced the five Bulgarian nurses to give false testimony exposing them as perpetrators of a crime: The spread of an AIDS infection to over 400 Libyan children,” Kokinov added.
The five women and a Palestinian doctor were sentenced to death after a court in Tripoli found them guilty of deliberately infecting the children with the HIV virus in a hospital in northeastern Benghazi.
The medics were convicted on the basis of confessions by the doctor and two of the nurses, despite the fact that they recanted their confessions during the trial.
The so-called “Benghazi six,” who have already spent eight years in a Libyan prison, testified that the confessions had been made under force, including police beatings and electric shocks.
In 2005, the nurses even lodged civil suits alleging torture against 10 Libyan officers, but these were later acquitted by a Libyan court.
Bulgarian national radio aired on Wednesday interviews with two of the nurses who described how they were left to hang by their wrists for hours, were beaten naked, and were given electric shocks for days on end.
“The beatings were horrendous. My body was covered with black-and-blue haematomas, blood and lymph were flowing from my feet. But the beatings paled in comparison to the electric shocks,” said nurse Kristiana Valcheva.
“All the information contained in our preliminary investigation is hair-raising,” prosecutor Aksiniya Matosyan, who will oversee the case, told the press conference on Wednesday.
“The tortures applied can only be compared to those used in the Middle Ages,” she added.
If convicted â€” assuming the Bulgarian prosecution gathers enough evidence against them and succeeds in extraditing them for trial â€” the 11 Libyans risk up to six years in prison.
But a successful investigation depends heavily on cooperation on the Libyan side, which will be asked to provide materials on the case and conduct interrogations, the prosecutor added.Â