Condemned Bulgarian medics freed by Libya after EU ‘blood money’ trade deal

SOFIA, July 24, 2007 (AFP) – Six foreign medics sentenced to death then life imprisonment in Libya in a controversial AIDS case were free in the Bulgarian capital Tuesday after the EU struck a multi-million-dollar financial and trade deal with Tripoli. The five Bulgarian nurses and one Palestinian doctor who also has Bulgarian citizenship were released early in the day and were flown to Sofia on board a French government jet.

They were accompanied by French first lady Cecilia Sarkozy and European Union External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, who had both been working hard for their release.

The six had been given death sentences commuted to life imprisonment for allegedly infecting 438 children with HIV-tainted blood in a Libyan hospital, despite testimony by internationally respected AIDS researchers that poor hygiene was to blame. Fifty-six of the children have since died.

“What kept me going was the fact that I am innocent and that I believe that if there is no human justice, there is God’s justice and it will come some day,” one nurse, Kristiana Valcheva, told Bulgarian television.

“In the coming days I will try to learn how to be free. Thank God it is over. I hope to start my life anew.”

Bulgarian President