Timeline: The Medics' Path to Freedom

Bulgarian nurse Valya Cherveniashka/Getty. i i

hide captionBulgarian nurse Valya Cherveniashka celebrates with an unidentified relative outside the French presidential plane after their arrival Tuesday in Sofia.

Dimitar Dilkoff/Getty Images
Bulgarian nurse Valya Cherveniashka/Getty.

Bulgarian nurse Valya Cherveniashka celebrates with an unidentified relative outside the French presidential plane after their arrival Tuesday in Sofia.

Dimitar Dilkoff/Getty Images

U.S.-Libya Relations

The United States has found diplomatic success in its recent dealings with Libya. Read more about how the United States and Libya moved from tense relations to full cooperation.

Four of the Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor/AP. i i

hide captionFour of the Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor, pictured in 2006. The five nurses and doctor were imprisoned since 1999, when Libyan officials accused them of deliberately infecting more than 400 Libyan children with HIV.

Ben Curtis/AP Photos
Four of the Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor/AP.

Four of the Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor, pictured in 2006. The five nurses and doctor were imprisoned since 1999, when Libyan officials accused them of deliberately infecting more than 400 Libyan children with HIV.

Ben Curtis/AP Photos
Bulgarian doctor Zdravko Georgiev/Getty. i i

hide captionDr. Zdravko Georgiev (center), the husband of Bulgarian nurse Kristiana Valcheva, celebrates outside the French presidential plane after arriving at Sofia airport on Tuesday. A Libyan court acquitted Georgiev in 2004 when it sentenced the nurses to death, but he has not been allowed to leave the country.

Dimitar Dilkoff/Getty Images
Bulgarian doctor Zdravko Georgiev/Getty.

Dr. Zdravko Georgiev (center), the husband of Bulgarian nurse Kristiana Valcheva, celebrates outside the French presidential plane after arriving at Sofia airport on Tuesday. A Libyan court acquitted Georgiev in 2004 when it sentenced the nurses to death, but he has not been allowed to leave the country.

Dimitar Dilkoff/Getty Images

February 1999: Libyan authorities detain 19 Bulgarian medics, nurses and doctors in the port city of Benghazi. Thirteen are later released.

March 1999: The Foreign Ministry informs Bulgaria that six of their citizens are under investigation for the spread of the HIV virus in a Benghazi children's hospital.

February 2000: Six Bulgarians – nurses Kristiana Valcheva, Nasya Nenova, Valentina Siropulo, Valya Chervenyashka and Snezhana Dimitrova, and Dr. Zdravko Georgiev – are tried in Libya's capitol city, Tripoli, on charges connected to conspiracy against the Libyan state and to deliberately infecting children with HIV. Palestinian doctor Ashraf al-Hazouz also is tried. A decision is not made for two years due, in part, to repeated adjournments.

June 2001: Nurses Kristiana Valcheva and Nasya Nenova testify that statements they made, on which the prosecutors based their charges, were extracted by torture. All six Bulgarians and the Palestinian doctor plead not guilty.

February 2002: All seven defendants are acquitted of conspiracy, but the court recommends a new trial to hear the charges of intentionally causing an HIV epidemic.

July 2003: A court in Benghazi launches a criminal trial against the six Bulgarians and the Palestinian doctor on charges they purposefully infected more than 400 Libyan children with HIV.

September 2003: Luc Montagnier, a French doctor who co-discovered the HIV virus, testifies before the Benghazi court that the deadly virus was active in the hospital before the nurses and doctors began working there in 1998. He said the epidemic was likely caused by poor hygiene.

May 2004: At the 19th hearing in the criminal case, the Benghazi court convicts the five Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian doctor and sentences them to death by firing squad. Bulgarian doctor, Zdravko Georgiev, is acquitted of the charges but is not allowed to leave the country.

December 2004: Libyan Foreign Minister Abdelraham Shalgam says if the victims are compensated, the guilty verdicts could be re-examined.

January 2005: Nine Libyan policemen and a Libyan doctor go on trial for torturing the five Bulgarian nurses in custody. They are acquitted in June 2005.

March 2005: The Libyan Supreme Court begins hearing the appeal of the nurses and the Palestinian doctor.

December 2005: The Supreme Court overturns the convictions on procedural irregularities and orders a retrial.

January 2006: Libyan families of infected children demand $5.5 billion in compensation from donors.

May 2006: The retrial begins. Prosecutors charge the six with intentionally infecting the children as part of an experiment to find a cure for AIDS.

December 2006: The court convicts all six and sentences them to death. The case is immediately appealed to the Supreme Court.

July 11, 2007: The Supreme Court upholds the death sentences.

July 17, 2007: Libya's top legal body, the High Judicial Council, overrules the Supreme Court decision and commutes the death sentences to life in prison, after relatives accept compensation reportedly worth $1 million per child.

July 19, 2007: Bulgaria formally requests the prisoners be allowed to serve out their sentences in Bulgaria.

July 22, 2007: European Union commissioner for foreign affairs, Benita Ferrero-Waldner and French First Lady Cecilia Sarkozy arrive in Libya to negotiate the medics' release.

July 24, 2007: The five Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian doctor are transferred to Bulgarian custody and return home. On their arrival, Bulgaria's president pardons all six.

Complied from Associated Press, BBC and International Herald Tribune reports.

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