Some of the Bulgarian medics who were sentenced to death (file) (epa)
July 17, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Libya's top judicial body, the Judicial Council, has commuted to life in prison the death sentences of six foreign medics who have been convicted for infecting children with the HIV virus.
U.S. State Department official David Welch called the decision a "positive step forward," but not an end to the ordeal of the five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor. Welch said he hoped the medics would be allowed to return home.
Earlier today, it was announced that the families of the children have received financial compensation worth $460 million.
The 460 families have signed a declaration renouncing the death sentences after reportedly receiving $1 million each in compensation.
The medical workers, in prison since 1999, were sentenced to death in December 2006 after being convicted of intentionally starting an HIV epidemic at a children's hospital in the city of Benghazi. Fifty-six of the children have died in the epidemic.
The medics say they are innocent and that they were tortured to confess.
(compiled from agency reports)