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Jackson on Libyan mercy trip for condemned nurses
Updated: 2004-08-25 08:42

U.S. civil rights campaigner Rev. Jesse Jackson said on Tuesday he would appeal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to show mercy to five Bulgarian nurses condemned to death for infecting children with HIV.

In a telephone call from Benghazi, Libya, Jackson told reporters he would also urge Gaddafi in a meeting on Wednesday to use his influence to alleviate the suffering of refugees caught up in the Darfur conflict in Sudan.

"He's a huge force in the African Union and the Arab League ... he can use his strength in the region constructively," Jackson said.

From Libya Jackson plans to travel to Khartoum for talks with Sudanese officials about the humanitarian crisis in Darfur.

He said while he was in Benghazi he would visit the infected children, their parents, and the nurses on death row. "Something can be done... (Gaddafi) can have mercy," he said.

A Libyan court condemned the Bulgarians to death by firing squad in May for giving the AIDS virus to more than 400 children at a Benghazi hospital.

Several of the nurses said they had confessed to the charge under torture, while Western medical experts testified that the epidemic began before the nurses arrived at the hospital, probably because of poor sanitary conditions.

The European Union has called the death sentences, which are under appeal, as a major obstacle to Libya's recent push to renew ties with the West after three decades of isolation.

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