The decision to sentence to death five Bulgarian nurses and one Palestinian physician accused of infecting Libyan children with HIV is a "miscarriage of justice" based on "preposterous charges," a New York Times editorial says (New York Times, 10/14).
The six medical workers were sentenced to death by firing squad in May 2004 for allegedly infecting 426 children through contaminated blood products at Al Fateh Children's Hospital in Benghazi, Libya.
They also were ordered to pay a total of $1 million to the families of the HIV-positive children.
The Libyan Supreme Court in December 2005 overturned the medical workers' convictions and ordered a retrial in a lower court.
The health workers say they are innocent of the charges, claiming that they were forced to confess and that they were tortured by Libyan officials during interrogations (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/25).
Luc Montagnier, an HIV/AIDS expert, has testified that the real cause of the transmission was poor hygienic practices at the hospital, according to the Times.
"It seems clear that the government wanted to deflect public outrage by accusing foreigners of committing a horrific crime -- rather than acknowledging the negligence of Libya's health system," the editorial says, adding that this issue "demands a strong warning to the Libyan leader, Muammar el-Qaddafi, that his efforts to join the ranks of peaceable nations will suffer if the medical workers are made the scapegoats for the failure of Libya's own health system" (New York Times, 10/14).