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BMJ 2007; 335 doi: (Published 01 September 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:0709295

Libyan HIV case

Medics finally released

Six foreign medics accused of deliberately infecting children with HIV were freed in late July after eight years of captivity in Libya. The five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor had their death sentences commuted after donors contributed to an international fund that gave $1m (£500,000; €730,000) to the family of each infected child.

The medics were flown to Bulgaria after the European Union promised Libya closer ties in exchange. On arrival in Bulgaria the six were immediately pardoned and freed.

International experts on HIV and epidemiology have maintained the subtype of the virus that caused the outbreak was present before the medics arrived. And the medics have always maintained their innocence.

Jailed since 1999, the six medics were twice condemned to death after trials that drew sharp international condemnation. The medical workers said that confessions of guilt had been extracted from them using torture.

After the release, families of the infected Libyan children condemned Bulgaria's “recklessness” and demanded the medical workers should be rearrested by Interpol (

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