Palestinian doctor calls for Libyan investigation

Published: Sunday, August 5, 2007, 19:22 [IST]

WOERDEN, Netherlands, Aug 5 (Reuters) Palestinian doctor Ashraf Alhajouj called today for an investigation into how he and five Bulgarian nurses were tortured to confess that they deliberately infected hundreds of Libyan children with HIV.

''I ask the Libyan people to open such a file to help us clear our name,'' he told reporters in Woerden, a picturesque town 40 minutes from Amsterdam, where his parents and four sisters live after leaving Libya in 2005.

''It is not the end now that we are free. We must clear our name of this tragedy. We are as much victims as the children,'' the 38-year-old doctor said.

Alhajouj and the nurses were freed on July 24 after more than eight years in jail, under a cooperation deal between Libya and the European Union.

The six, who were sentenced to death on two occasions, have maintained their innocence and said they confessed under torture.

Bulgaria and other European governments also said the medics were innocent and called for their release.

Relatives of the sick children say the infections were part of a Western attempt to undermine Muslims and Libya. More than 50 children died.

Alhajouj said international organisations could also push for an investigation into the medics' ordeal.

He plans to meet with his lawyer tomorrow to discuss his options, which may include legal action against his Libyan jailors either on his own or with the nurses.

Alhajouj, who was born in Egypt but grew up in Libya, said he will never go back to Libya.

''It has destroyed my past, my present and my future.'' The Palestinian, who recently received Bulgarian citizenship, plans to shuttle between the Netherlands and Bulgaria in the future.

''I have two families now, the first in the Netherlands and the second in Bulgaria. I will be proud to be here and there,'' he said.

REUTERS RSA KN1815

 

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