Six foreign medical workers have arrived in Bulgaria after being released from a Libyan jail, bringing an end to a tragic case that has been riddled with injustice.
The six medics - five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor - were first sentenced to death in 2004 after being accused of deliberately infecting over 400 Libyan children with HIV. They consistently denied the charge and allege that they were tortured in detention to make them "confess".
The death sentence was overturned on appeal by the Supreme Court, but they were again sentenced to death after being convicted in a second unfair trial in 2006.
The release of the health workers, which follows last week's decision to commute their death sentences, is reported to have been made possible by a deal struck between Libya and the EU to improve ties. It follows extensive campaigning by Amnesty International from the beginning of the case.
A key role was also played by the Gaddafi Development Foundation - headed by one of the Libyan leader's sons - one of the few voices in the country to repeatedly raise concerns about the medics’ trials and treatment. It was agreed that the families of the children infected with HIV should benefit from an international fund, in return for the death sentences being commuted.
"This is a welcome decision on the part of the Libyan authorities," said Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme. "They should now proceed to implementing much-needed reforms to the criminal justice system to ensure that nothing like this can ever happen again in Libya."
The six medics were arrested in 1999 after hundreds of children became infected with HIV at a Benghazi hospital.