Libya Frees Condemned Medical Workers Six foreign medical workers who had been sentenced to death in Libya are free. The five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor flew out of Libya to Bulgaria aboard a French jetliner accompanied by the wife of French President Nicholas Sarkozy.
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Libya Frees Condemned Medical Workers

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Libya Frees Condemned Medical Workers

Libya Frees Condemned Medical Workers

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RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

We're joined now by reporter Eleanor Beardsley in Paris. Good morning.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Now Libya's high court had just commuted the death sentences of these six to life in prison, so much of a surprise was it that they were actually released?

BEARDSLEY: Well, it's true that the negotiations had been intensifying and there was some movement lately, and Sarkozy's wife Cecilia had been there twice in the last 10 days. But to wake up this morning to the news that they were all in a French jet headed for Sofia was still quite a surprise.

MONTAGNE: Just remind us now of what the evidence and the alleged motivation was for the charges that these medical workers had purposely infected Libyan children with the HIV virus.

BEARDSLEY: You know, outside experts and the nurses themselves say that they're innocent and it was the unsanitary conditions in the clinic that led to the children getting AIDS. But for the Libyans, they believed that these nurses from a foreign country were experimenting with their children and had given these children AIDS. So it was taken very seriously in Libya where people believed the charges.

MONTAGNE: And we're speaking to you there in Paris mostly for the reason that when these medical workers were released, France's first lady accompanied them from Libya to Bulgaria. You know, given that it's a European Union deal and several European countries have been involved, what was she doing there?

BEARDSLEY: But it's true, this has been a long and ongoing effort that was taken up by the EU in 2005, when Bulgaria joined the EU, so France is just part of that effort. But it is also true to say that for Sarkozy it was a personal ambition to solve what he had called a humanitarian nightmare. And he really ramped up the intensity on this whole affair to a new level, and in the end he made it happen.

MONTAGNE: And for Gaddafi and Libya what does this mean?

BEARDSLEY: So there's already progress being shown in that area because Sarkozy is heading to Libya tomorrow where he's going to hold economic and political talks with Gaddafi. You know, experts are saying, is this going to bring democracy to Libya tomorrow? Probably not. But it's an important step. And for the nurses and doctor it's the end of their nightmare.

MONTAGNE: Eleanor, thanks very much.

BEARDSLEY: Thank you, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Reporter Eleanor Beardsley in Paris on today's release in Libya of six foreign medical workers.

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