Last Updated: Mon Nov 01, 2010 19:45 pm (KSA) 16:45 pm (GMT)

Bulgarian nurse details life as Gaddafi's hostage

Valcheva describes her torture of being hung from door frames (File)
Valcheva describes her torture of being hung from door frames (File)

In a new book published this week, a Bulgarian nurse relates how she was tortured in a Libyan jail where she was held for more than eight years on charges of infecting hundreds of children with HIV in a hospital AIDS scandal.

In the book, titled "Eight years as (Libyan leader Muammar) Gaddafi's hostage", nurse Kristiana Valcheva tells how she and five other Bulgarian medics -- four nurses and a doctor -- were repeatedly tied and beaten during their time in the prison.

Valcheva describes how she was hung from door frames and her feet were thrashed with cables.

She, another nurse and the doctor also received electric shocks. And police threatened to set dogs on her and even infect her with HIV in an attempt to force her to confess, Valcheva said.

She was singled out by police as the supposed mastermind behind the plot, the nurse told a press conference on Sunday.

"My name was the one that was mentioned most. I was the most demonized," she said. "I want people to know the truth."

The book, which was already published in French in October, describes the eight years that Valcheva spent working as a nurse in Libyan hospitals before being arrested in 1999.

It then goes on to describe the medics' eight-and-a-half-year ordeal in prison.

The six were charged with injecting more than 400 children with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, at the Children's Hospital in Benghazi and were sentenced to death by firing squad three times.

The medics have always protested their innocence and claimed their confessions were obtained by torture.

In 2005, they filed suit against 10 Libyan police officers, but their cases were dismissed by a Libyan court.

The Bulgarian authorities launched their own separate investigation in January this year and that enquiry is still under way.

The third time the six were sentenced to death was on July 11, 2007.

A week later, Libya's Supreme Judicial Council commuted their sentences to life imprisonment, and then on July 24, following a multi-million-dollar deal between the EU and the children's families, the six were released and escorted home on board the French presidential plane.

Valcheva said she did not remember much of that day.

"I want to learn how to be free. To be happy again. To be able to cry again. To heal my soul. To forgive. To catch up all my lost smiles," she writes.

"I believe that everything is remediable, as long as you're alive," Valcheva writes in the epilogue.

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