Bulgarian families see no quick end to Libya case

Bulgarian nurse Snezhana Dimitrova has spent eight years in a Libyan jail and her family is convinced that a court there will on Wednesday confirm the death sentences passed on her and five other foreign medics.“There will be another death sentence. It is clear,” said Ivailo, her 34-year-old son who says his mother suffered a nervous breakdown in 2005.

“We know that they are innocent and should return to Bulgaria as innocent people,” he added.

His mother is one of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor who were convicted in December of deliberately infecting 426 children with the HIV virus that causes AIDS.

The medics, who worked at the children’s hospital in the city of Benghazi in the 1990s, appealed to Libya’s supreme court saying they were tortured into confessing.

The court is widely expected to upheld the death penalties as an acquittal would likely trigger public anger in Libya.

The highly politicised trial has hindered Libya’s efforts to end decades of diplomatic isolation and improve ties with the European Union and the United States.

Ivailo still hopes that diplomatic efforts to free the medics will bear fruit and his mother, who is 54, will return home to be reunited with her ailing 80-year-old father.

“My grandfather was hit by a third heart attack recently. The pressure and waiting have grown too huge,” said Ivailo.


Compensation deal


A confirmation of the sentence will leave the fate of the medics in the hands of Libya’s high judicial council, a government-led body that has the power to overturn it.

Experts say that is likely to happen only if Western nations and Libya agree on how much Western countries should pay into a fund that has been set up to help treat the surviving children.

There have been encouraging signs in the past few weeks that an agreement is close. But families of the nurses remained cautious on the prospects for a deal.

“Things looked optimistic in the past as well but were then followed by huge disappointment,” said Ivan Nenov, husband of 41-year-old nurse Nasya Nenova.”We have not lost hope, though, that they will come back home one day.” Tripoli has demanded 10 million euros ($13.6 million) for each infected child’s family. Bulgaria rejects any compensation payout, which it says would admit guilt.

Some Western scientists say negligence and poor hospital hygiene are the real culprits, and that the six are scapegoats.

The nurses went to work Libya in the late 1990s attracted by higher incomes in the north African country and driven by a need to support their families.

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