TODAY.AZ / Politics

Libyan families demand $5.3 billion in HIV case

22 January 2006 [03:32] - TODAY.AZ
Families of over 400 Libyan children with HIV asked for 4.4 billion euros ($5.3 billion) on Saturday from donors trying to end a standoff over six foreign medics accused of giving them the disease.

Libya's supreme court overturned death sentences against the five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor last month, but they still face a retrial and could be re-condemned for deliberately infecting the children, reports Reuters correspondent Salah Sarrar from Tripoli.

Seeking to defuse the dispute, donors from Bulgaria, its EU and U.S. allies, and the Gaddafi Charity Foundation, a charity run by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's son Saif al Islam, formed a fund this week to organize aid for the children.

They also met the victims' families, who want compensation, said Maxim Minchev, a member of a Sofia-based NGO that helped found the Benghazi International Fund.

"At the meeting, the families raised their request and demanded 10 million euros per child in compensation, but no agreement has been reached to that end," Minchev quoted the Gaddafi Foundation, which hosted the talks, as saying in a statement.

Libya has suggested that, under Islamic law, the charges against the nurses could be dropped if Bulgaria pays "blood money" to the families.

But Bulgaria and its allies insist the nurses are innocent, citing evidence they were tortured to confess to the crime and that the epidemic started in the Benghazi hospital before they began working there.

Sofia has called the aid fund a voluntary, not a political or diplomatic initiative and has rejected contributing to any type of compensation as a false admission of guilt.


In Libya, where the dispute has hampered efforts to end decades of diplomatic isolation, one official said a deal had been done, but another said talks were in fact continuing.

"There is no agreement on the compensation yet. We got notice at our meeting with the Bulgarian side of the precise demands of the families of the sick children. The families want to get 10 million euros each," said Salah Abdessalam, a senior official of the Gaddafi Charity Foundation.

He added that the two sides would meet again in Sofia next week in an attempt to agree compensation terms. Another Libyan official had earlier suggested a deal had been reached.

"The two sides reached an accord to pay 10 million (euros) for each of the 426 HIV infected children and 20 mothers who are also contaminated with HIV," Driss Lagha, chairman of the Association for the Families of the HIV-infected Children, told Reuters.

Lagha said officials from Libya and Bulgaria reached the agreement on payments for healthcare for the sick children at a meeting in Tripoli on Saturday.

It was not clear who would pay such a sum and Minchev refused to comment on whether it was realistic.

But he said the Bulgarian NGO was not tied to his country's government and would only raise funds meant for lifelong treatment for the children.

"Our NGO is continuing to raise funds for the children in Libya, but the money should go for medicine," he said. "But it will not take part in talks for compensation."


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