According to a New York Times report, a group of medical workers accused of infecting more than 400 children with HIV in a hospital in Benghazi, Libya, were sentenced to death by a Libyan court yesterday. The verdict comes despite attempted intervention by the scientific community and a fast-tracked paper in Nature, in which sequence analysis of the particular HIV strain showed that the medical team couldn't have been culpable.
The five Bulgarian nurses and one Palestinian doctor will face a firing squad, according to the report. Bulgarian’s foreign minister is appealing to Libyan leader Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi to halt the ruling based on what many individuals familiar with the situation consider a less-than-competent handling of the case by the courts.
The case goes back to 1998, when it became apparent that an unusually large number of children began testing positive for HIV shortly after the defendants' arrival. Libyan prosecutors claimed that one of the nurses admitted to infecting the children with a vial containing the virus. Families of the victims have stated that the charges would be dropped if Bulgaria is able to fork over $10 million per child in donations.