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Bulgarian Nurses, Doctor Free After Eight Years in Libyan Jail


Five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor are free in Bulgaria after spending eight years in a Libyan prison on charges of infecting children with the virus that causes AIDS.

Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov immediately pardoned the medics when they arrived in Sofia on a French jet.

Libya freed the medical workers Tuesday after three days of talks with French First Lady Cecilia Sarkozy and European Union foreign affairs chief Benita Ferrero-Waldner.

Details on the agreement to free them have not been disclosed. But French President Nicolas Sarkozy said neither France nor the EU paid for the medical workers' release

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the EU and Libya could now normalize relations.

The medical workers called their eight years in Libya a horror. They spoke of medieval style torture. One of the nurses said she tried suicide to escape the ordeal.

A White House spokesman, Gordon Johndroe said Bulgaria's president called President Bush to thank him for U.S. support and assistance during the ordeal. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says she applauds the medics' release.

Libya origially sentenced the nurses and doctor to death, then commuted the sentences to life in prison. They denied infecting the Libyan children with HIV. Foreign experts say the children likely became sick from poor hygiene at the Benghazi hospital. Officials close to negotiations said the deal to free the medics included modernizing the hospital. Families of the 438 infected children also received about one million dollars each through an EU-supported fund.

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