7 health workers face firing squad after being detained for over 5 years

A Libyan court has sentenced six Bulgarian health workers and a Palestinian doctor convicted of spreading AIDS to death by firsing squad. The seven were originally arrested in February 1999 and have since been incarcerated in an inconspicuous grey compound in Tripoli's chaotic western suburbs.

They have been found guilty of infecting around 393 children at a hospital in Benghazi with the HIV virus. 43 of the children have since died.

Moves to appeal the sentence are currently being put in place according to Bulgarian public radio.

In a dark twist nine Libyan doctors who were accused of negligence in the case were pronounced not guilty by the court.

The Bulgarian government has pronounced the sentence "unacceptable for the Bulgarian government and state. There will be an appeal," government spokesman Dimitar Tsonev told Bulgarian National Television.

The treatment of the suspects has also been shocking. Christiana Valchieva, one of the nurses, claims she was tortured for three months. Electric shocks were administered up and down her body and she was beaten with cables, deprived of sleep and intimidated with police dogs.

"They liked me to undress myself. Psychologically, it was too much," she said, as her husband, Dr. Zdravko Georgiev, sat silently besides her, staring at the floor. "They prepared lamps." She continued, "and threatened to insert them into my vagina."

The couple insisted that they have never worked at the Al Fateh. "We were included in this scenario by the police," said Valchieva, 43.

"When they started the torture they made us say we all knew each other and we were a criminal group, that we came here to destroy the country."

"The Bulgarian government will continue all its efforts to mobilise the international community, the European Union and the United States in order to obtain a fair sentence from another court," Tsonev said.

In 1992 Professor Luc Montaignier, the French scientist who discovered HIV, the Aids virus, in 1983, traveled to Libya and concluded that the basic medical blunders - inadequate equipment and skills, and the systematic reuse of unsterelized syringes - had led to the "largest documented outbreak of HIV transmission" in any hospital in the world.

Benghazi is an ancient city on the Mediterranean North East Libya. When Libya achieved its independance in 1951 Benghazi became Libya's second capital city.

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