Six foreign medics convicted of infecting hundreds of Libyan children with HIV have left Libya for Bulgaria aboard a French presidential jet, France said on Tuesday.
"The aircraft of the French republic has taken off from Libya bound for Sofia with the five Bulgarian nurses and the doctor of Palestinian origin on board," the French presidency said in a statement.
"The French President, Mr Nicolas Sarkozy, and the President of the European Commission, Mr Jose Manuel Barroso, welcome the agreement that has at last allowed this release and the return to Bulgaria of the nurses held for more than eight years, and of the Palestinian doctor," the statement said.
Bulgaria’s Foreign Ministry confirmed the medics had left Libya.
"They have left their airport in Libya and are now flying ... We expect in them in Sofia," Deputy Foreign Minister Feim Chaushev told Reuters.
The medics, who spent over eight years in Libyan jail, were accompanied by EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner and France’s First Lady Cecilia Sarkozy, Chaushev said. The two were in Tripoli to help release the medics, who say they are innocent.
The French statement also welcomed the setting up of improved health care for children suffering from AIDS in Libya.
Libya lifted death sentences against the medics last week and commuted them to terms of life imprisonment.