Last updated: 20 October, 2011

Kadhafi ‘got what he deserved,’ say Bulgarian nurses

Bulgarian nurses imprisoned in Libya for eight years over an HIV scandal welcomed on Thursday news of Moamer Kadhafi’s death, saying the deposed Libyan strongman had “got what he deserved”.

“The news made me very happy. It’s a punishment. A dog like him deserved to die like a dog,” Valya Chervenyashka told AFP.

She, along with four other Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian-born doctor, was jailed in 1999, tortured and twice sentenced to death under Kadhafi’s regime.

“I am really happy, I was expecting it. He got what he deserved,” Valentina Siropolu, another of the nurses freed in 2007, added.

Two others, Snezhana Dimitrova and Kristiana Valcheva, said however they were “indifferent” to Kadhafi’s death.

“I would have been happy if he had been captured alive too,” said Valcheva.

“I can’t be happy about anyone’s death, even my enemy,” added Dimitrova.

The four women contacted by AFP agreed on one point however: that Libya’s new leaders exonerate them.

In 2007, Tripoli only agreed to commute their death sentences to life imprisonment, after which they were flown back to Bulgaria, where they were immediately pardoned.

“The Bulgarian government’s main goal should be to demand that our innocence be recognised,” Chervenyashka said Thursday.

“Kadhafi’s death doesn’t make me feel better, I claim my innocence,” added Dimitrova.

The five nurses and the Palestinian doctor became known as the “Benghazi six” after they were jailed in Libya in 1999 for allegedly infecting 438 children with HIV-tainted blood at a paediatric hospital in Benghazi.

Experts, including Luc Montagnier, the French virologist credited with co-discovering the HIV virus, testified however that the epidemic was due to poor hygiene.

The case sparked an international outcry, eventually leading to the medics’ release and return to Bulgaria in 2007 where they were pardoned by Bulgarian President Georgy Parvanov.

On Thursday, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov said he would “keep insisting categorically” that the nurses’ innocence be recognised by Tripoli.

“It is important for us to see the archives of the secret services, which should demonstrate the political motivations behind the trial against our nurses,” he told public radio.

Reacting to Kadhafi’s death, Mladenov said “it is the fate of every dictator”.

“Let this be a warning to all dictators; they cannot subject their people indefinitely to torture and humiliation.”

The minister added he hoped Bulgaria would help rebuild the Libyan army and police force, as well as healthcare facilities where many Bulgarian nurses have continued to work, even during the unrest.