We'll free condemned nurses if provided with aid'
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We'll free condemned nurses if provided with aid'

Five Bulgarian nurses were sentenced to death in Libya for allegedly infecting some 400 Libyan children with HIV.

india Updated: Nov 29, 2005 19:08 IST

Bulgarian State Radio reported on Monday that Libya's foreign minister said five Bulgarian nurses sentenced to death in Libya for allegedly infecting some 400 Libyan children with HIV may be freed if Tripoli receives humanitarian aid to treat the victims.

Abdul Rahman Shalgam spoke to Bulgarian press in Barcelona, Spain, where he met his Bulgarian counterpart Ivailo Kalfin on the sidelines of a Euro-Mediterranean summit.

The five nurses and a Palestinian doctor were convicted in May 2004 of intentionally infecting more than 400 children with HIV and were sentenced to death by firing squad. They have pleaded innocent, and human rights groups and others have alleged that Libya concocted the charges to cover up unhygienic practices in its hospitals. The six have appealed their death sentences before the Libyan Supreme Court. A hearing has been scheduled for Jan. 31. Although the Bulgarian State Radio reported Shalgam said the nurses could be freed, Shalgam was specifically quoted only as saying their death sentences could be annulled.

Shalgam said Libya was not seeking compensation, or what was described as "blood money," for the families of the HIV-infected children.

"I cannot interfere with court issues, but what we have here is a humanitarian issue," he was quoted by state radio.

Shalgam said court rulings should be respected but that if Libya receives humanitarian aid, the death sentences will be "automatically annulled," he was was quoted by the report.

Bulgaria has already rejected a Libyan suggestion that it compensate the victims' families if the death sentences are lifted, saying it would imply their guilt. Bulgarian officials, however, have repeatedly said their country is ready to offer Libya humanitarian help to contain the spread of AIDS.

Kalfin did not comment on Shalgam's offer and said only that Bulgaria wanted a swift solution.

"My country wants the case to be resolved as quickly and as positively as possible, without further delay," Kalfin told state radio.

First Published: Nov 30, 2003 21:36 IST