TRIPOLI (Reuters) – The families of hundreds of Libyan children with HIV condemned Bulgaria’s “recklessness” on Wednesday for its pardoning six medical workers accused of infecting them and called on Tripoli to cut ties with Sofia.
In a statement, an association of the families said Libya should deport all Bulgarian nationals and stop dealing with Bulgarian companies and demanded the medics be re-arrested by Interpol.
“The families expressed their condemnation and resentment at the recklessness of the Bulgarian nation when the Bulgarian president pardoned the nurses,” the Libyan Association for the Families of HIV-Infected Children said.
Last week, Libya commuted death sentences against the five Bulgarian nurses and Palestinian doctor to life in prison following a financial settlement of $1 million each to 460 HIV victims’ families.
At the time, a spokesman for the families said their acceptance of the payout implied they had dropped their complaint. The medics were then allowed to leave following a partnership deal between Tripoli and the European Union.
Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov pardoned the medics, who had spent eight years in jail, on their arrival in Sofia on Tuesday. The medics had always said they were innocent and were tortured to confess, but the families demanded their re-arrest.
“The families demand officially that Interpol police arrest the convicted medics to spend the rest of their punishment in jail,” the association’s statement said.
It added: “The families demand that the Libyan nation cease immediately its relations with Bulgaria and to deport all Bulgarians from Libya and stop dealing with Bulgarian companies.”
The medics were due to hold a news conference to give their first full comments on their ordeal later on Wednesday.
Relatives of the children have said the infections were part of a Western attempt to undermine Muslims and Libya. Some 56 of the children have died and emotions are still strong in the city of Benghazi where the outbreak occurred.
Libya was under heavy pressure to release the medics or risk hurting its efforts to emerge from decades of diplomatic isolation imposed for what the West called its support of terrorism.
The final deal brokered by the European Union, which Bulgaria joined this year, involved the establishment of an international fund to care for the children and EU help to upgrade two hospitals and a medical centre in Benghazi.