Nicolas and Cecilia Sarkozy named honourary citizens of Sofia

24th July 2007, Comments 0 comments

SOFIA, July 24, 2007 (AFP) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy, his wife and an EU official who helped broker the release of six Bulgarian medics jailed in Libya were on Tuesday named honorary citizens of Sofia, the mayor's office said.

SOFIA, July 24, 2007 (AFP) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy, his wife and an EU official who helped broker the release of six Bulgarian medics jailed in Libya were on Tuesday named honorary citizens of Sofia, the mayor's office said.

Sofia's municipal council voted to grant the honorary title to the French president, his wife Cecilia, and the EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner "for their staunchness, strength and determination during negotiations with Libya and their unique contribution for the release of the Bulgarian medics."

Cecilia Sarkozy and Ferrero-Waldner traveled to Tripoli on Sunday to push for the medics' swift release.

After days of tough talks and uncertainty they succeeded in bringing the medical workers back to Bulgaria Tuesday on board a French presidential plane, but left Bulgaria shortly after that.

The five Bulgarian nurses and Palestinian doctor, who was recently granted Bulgarian citizenship, were arrested in 1999 and convicted five years later of deliberately infecting 438 children with HIV-tainted blood at a hospital in the Mediterranean city of Benghazi. Fifty-six children have since died.

They were originally sentenced to death but their sentences were commuted to life in prison last week after a multi-million dollar compensation deal was hammered out with the victims' families.

The medical workers have always pleaded their innocence and said confessions were extracted from them under torture, while foreign experts have blamed poor hygiene at the hospital for the HIV infections.

The six received a pardon from Bulgarian President Georgy Parvanov immediately upon their arrival in Sofia and they no longer face any time in prison.

In a statement read out by Foreign Minister Ivaylo Kalfin at Sofia airport, Parvanov stressed his belief "in the innocence of the medical workers."

Parvanov and other Bulgarian officials especially thanked the French presidential couple Tuesday for their steadfast involvement in the efforts to win the medics' release.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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