Minister Dermot Ahern welcomes the release of Bulgarian medical staff
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Dermot Ahern T.D., today warmly welcomed the release of five Bulgarian nurses and one Palestinian-born doctor from prison in Libya. They were sentenced to death in 2004 having been unjustly convicted of deliberately infecting hundreds of Libyan children with HIV. The six, who have been in prison since 1999, have arrived back safely in Sofia.
Speaking today, the Minister said:
“I warmly welcome the release of the five nurses and doctor. It has been a long time coming but I share the joy of the Bulgarian Government and people that this dreadful and tragic case has now been successfully resolved. I want to pay tribute in particular to European Commissioner, Ms Benita Ferrero-Waldner, who has worked patiently and tirelessly behind the scenes to secure their release. Ireland has consistently supported the Bulgarian Government’s campaign to have the six freed, and I have been in frequent and close contact on the issue with the Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Ivailo Kalfin. I should also like to take this opportunity to salute the role played by France and by President Sarkozy’s wife, Madame Cécilia Sarkozy. Madame Sarkozy has twice visited the medical staff in prison and has helped to keep the spotlight on the case. I also commend the Libyan authorities for their decision which paves the way for the further improvement of Libya’s relations with the European Union.
“While we are naturally delighted with this news, we remain keenly aware of the tragedy which has befallen 438 children in Benghazi who have been infected with HIV carried in contaminated blood. 56 of those children have died and our thoughts go out to their families and friends. We hope that the survivors can benefit from the best medical assistance and support available. The European Commission and the Libyan authorities have agreed a framework to ensure that the children receive improved care in their fight against HIV/Aids. Ireland is ready to contribute to that programme.”
The five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor (who is now a Bulgarian citizen) have been in jail in Libya for eight years, unjustly convicted of deliberately infecting hundreds of children in a Benghazi hospital with HIV. On 17 July 2007 their death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment by the High Judicial Council of Libya.Top