Ottawa Citizen

AIDS experts plead for release of 6 held in Libya

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Western countries are being urged to step up pressure on Libya to release six medical workers who have been imprisoned and tortured for allegedly infecting more than 400 children with HIV.

“ There is danger of their imminent execution,” says Dr. Mark Wainberg, director of McGill’s AIDS centre, a co- signer of a letter from 44 internatio­nal AIDS experts calling for the release of the “ innocent” workers it says are being used as scapegoats.

The researcher­s’ letter, released by the journal Science yesterday, says the imprisonme­nt of the five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinia­n doctor “ sends a chilling message.”

The medics were imprisoned in 1999, accused of intentiona­lly infecting more than 400 children with HIV at a hospital in Benghazi, tried and sentenced to death. Amnesty Internatio­nal reports the workers were tortured until they confessed.

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has said the children were deliberate­ly infected as part of an internatio­nal conspiracy to destabiliz­e his country.

The researcher­s say the virus was in the hospital before the workers arrived. They blame the infections on poor control practices and a lack of sterile, disposable injecting equipment.

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