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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Top Libyan Court Upholds Foreigners' Death Sentences

TRIPOLI, Libya -- Libya's Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the death sentences of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor convicted of infecting more than 400 children with HIV, though the verdict may not be final.

Libya's Supreme Judicial Council, which is headed by the minister of justice, could approve or reject the convictions or set lighter sentences. Libya's foreign minister said the council would convene on Monday.

"The court has accepted the appeal in principal but rejects its content, therefore the court decided to uphold the verdict against them," Judge Fathi Dahan told the courtroom. The defendants were not present for the appeal hearing.

About 20 family members of the children who were infected rejoiced at the court's ruling and chanted: "Long live justice!" after the decision.

"This is a victory for the Libyan judiciary system. We are awaiting the execution of the death sentence," said the families' lawyer, Al-Monseif Khalifa.

In announcing the verdict, the judge mentioned nothing about a settlement announced Tuesday by a foundation headed by the Libyan leader's son.

The Gadhafi International Foundation for Charity Associations said Tuesday that the families of the HIV-infected children reached an agreement with the nurses and doctor but would not say whether it involved compensation.

On Tuesday in Tripoli, Idris Lagha, head of an association for the families of those infected, said a deal would be announced in a couple of days.

Libya has been under intense international pressure to free the six, who deny infecting the children. The case has become a sticking point in Libya's attempts to rebuild ties with the United States and Europe.