SOFIA – Lawyers for five Bulgarian nurses accused of infecting Libyan children with HIV will seek their release on bail at a new trial opening on Thursday after their previous death sentences were overturned, Trud daily reported.
The nurses, detained since 1999, had been
sentenced to death by firing squad along with a Palestinian doctor until last year, when Libya’s supreme court overturned the verdicts and sent the case back to a lower court.
Osman Bizanti, a Libyan lawyer on the nurses’ defence team said he would immediately ask for the nurses’ release on bail at the opening of the retrial.
“Those will be my first words on Thursday,” Trud daily quoted him as saying on Wednesday.
He also said he would ask for a recess so the defence would have time to study the prosecution’s case.
The case has hampered Libya’s efforts to end three decades of diplomatic isolation as Bulgaria and its Western allies, the European Union and the United States, say the nurses are innocent.
They point to evidence that the medics were tortured to confess and testimony by AIDS experts that they were not working at the hospital when the epidemic began.
But the case has also enraged families of the 426 infected children, at least 50 of whom have died.
Bulgaria and its allies have recently expressed hope that the nurses could be freed by as soon as this autumn. But on Wednesday Bulgaria’s foreign ministry said it did not expect dramatic developments at the opening of the new trial.
“This is the first sitting of a new trial. It is not realistic to expect any dramatic development on the case,” said Dimitar Tsantchev, spokesman for Bulgaria’s foreign ministry. — Reuter