Palestinian medic gets Libyan jail compensation

Filed on March 29, 2012

THE HAGUE A Palestinian-born doctor who spent eight years in a Libyan jail on charges of infecting children with HIV has got one million euros in compensation, his Dutch lawyer said Tuesday.

Ashraf Juma Hajuj, who now lives in the Netherlands, last year sued for compensation in a Hague civil court.

The 41-year-old and five Bulgarian nurses were sentenced to death in Libya for deliberately infecting 438 children with HIV-tainted blood.

“A Dutch civil court has awarded my client, a Palestinian doctor, one million euros ($1.3 million) on allegations of his torture and mistreatment while in detention in Libya,” Liesbeth Zegveld told AFP.

The six were sent to jail in 1999 after 56 children died in a hospital in Benghazi under the rule of slain Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

Hajuj on July 27 last year sued 12 Libyan civil servants, saying they were involved in his torture during his time behind bars.

“We chose to focus on the individuals as we wanted to get as close as possible to those responsible for his torture,” said Zegveld.

But the defendants were not present during the case, with Zegveld admitting “we have no idea where they are”.

“My view is that because these officials worked for the state, the government of Libya should pay these damages,” she said.

The five Bulgarian nurses incarcerated with Hajuj said they felt forsaken but hailed the ruling.

“It’s a shame that Bulgaria did not do that before the Netherlands,” Valentina Siropulo told AFP.

“The Dutch judiciary showed them the right reaction. Bulgaria has ridiculed itself in the eyes of Europe,” she added.

Siropulo and another nurse, Christiana Valcheva, accused Bulgaria of “not doing anything” to clear their names and punish their Libyan torturers.

Siropulo said the ruling “will rather have a moral effect.”

“It is impossible for him to obtain from the Libyan state these damages that he unquestionably deserves,” she said, regretting nevertheless that the Hague court’s decision did not include her and the other four nurses.

“It is not a question of money. It is important to clear our and Bulgaria’s names,” Hajuj told Bulgarian national radio in a phone interview. He also said he did not expect to receive the money.

His lawyer told AFP the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva was expected to make a similar ruling in Hajuj’s case as well as the cases of the five Bulgarian nurses later this week.

The six medics, who have always maintained their innocence, said they were tortured, bitten by dogs and given electric shocks to extract confessions.

The group was released in 2007 after intervention from French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s former wife Cecilia. They flew back to Bulgaria and Hajuj, who also holds Bulgarian nationality, later went on to the Netherlands.

Sofia’s city prosecution re-opened in mid-2011 a probe into their torture claims but the case has not advanced much due to its reliance on judicial assistance from the Libyan authorities.

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