Gaddafi's son says medics will not be executed

By Tsvetelia Ilieva
Monday, January 29, 2007; 1:04 PM

SOFIA (Reuters) - Libya will not execute five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor sentenced to death last month, the son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi said in a newspaper interview, calling the verdicts unfair.

A Libyan court sentenced the six for intentionally infecting hundreds of children with the HIV virus in a case which started eight years ago and that has triggered widespread international concern about its fairness.

Speaking to the Bulgarian daily newspaper 24 Chasa, Gaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam, said a solution would be found soon to save the six and satisfy families of the infected children, but he gave no details.

"There will be no executions. I hope there will be a happy end soon ... My father is also against the executions," said Saif al-Islam, Gaddafi's leading envoy.

"The case went in the wrong direction from the very beginning. There were many manipulations in the original files, many errors ... This is why we should seek a compromise," Saif al-Islam said, adding Tripoli had already discussed a plan with Germany and France.

Saif al-Islam runs a charity foundation which has played a key part in negotiating with Western countries over compensation for bombings in which Libya was implicated.

Experts have said the six may escape the firing squad with a government-led body having the final word on their fate.

Bulgarian Deputy Foreign Minister Feim Chaushev said al-Islam's comments could be a sign of progress in negotiations.

"I am inclined to see a positive signal in these assurances," he said.

Bulgaria and its allies say overwhelming scientific evidence backs statements by the nurses and doctor that they are innocent. But Libya has remained defiant despite international pressure, saying others should not interfere with its courts.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack repeated a U.S. call for the six to be allowed to go home.

AIDS experts have testified the HIV epidemic started long before the Bulgarian nurses and Palestinian doctor arrived in the country.

Saif al-Islam said the outbreak was due to negligence and not conspiracy, but Bulgaria, Libya and the European Union should meet the demands of the families and help the medical treatment of the children.

"We are speaking about securing serious indemnity for the families," he said. "The Bulgarian government and the European Union should understand our demands."

The families have demanded 10 million euros ($13 million) per child in compensation from Bulgaria which, under Islamic law, would allow the victims' families to pardon the nurses.

Bulgaria, a European Union member since January 1, and its allies in Brussels and Washington have created an international fund to give treatment, medicine and other aid to the children and their families.

Chaushev said the fund had already offered some financial support to the families that he would not call compensation as this would be an admission of guilt, and that an agreement was now being negotiated with the help of the Gaddafi foundation.

He declined to say how much support would be given per child but said "it won't be in millions."

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