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Doctor released from Libya to rejoin family

A Palestinian doctor released from Libya’s prison will soon rejoin his family in the Netherlands.

Ashraf al-Hazouz, 39, is currently in Bulgaria after the group's release Tuesday. They were jailed for more than eight years over widely rejected accusations that they deliberately infected Libyan children with HIV.

"We don't know exactly when he'll be coming, but we do know that he will be coming," Immigration Ministry spokeswoman Karen Temmink said.

It was not clear whether he would seek or receive a Dutch passport, but because al-Hazouz has been granted Bulgarian citizenship, and Bulgaria is part of the European Union, "there's no obstacle to him coming here to live," Temmink said.

Al-Hazouz's mother, father and four sisters were granted political asylum in the Netherlands in 2005, on advice of the United Nations' High Commissioner For Refugees.

"They were treated like pariahs" in Libya while Ashraf was under arrest, Foreign Ministry spokesman Robert Dekker said. "So they were eligible for political asylum in the Netherlands."

The Dutch government had not been intimately involved in the negotiations that led to the release, he said. But while the Netherlands held the EU's rotating presidency in 2004, it began pressing the issue within the 27-member and set up a fund for the treatment of HIV-infected children in Libya.

Al-Hazouz's story is slightly different from that of the five nurses, who were recruited to work in al-Fath Children's Hospital in Libya's second-largest city of Benghazi.

Al-Hazouz was born in Egypt to Palestinian parents and moved to Libya at age 2. He was a doctor interning at al-Fath when he was arrested with the others.

Libya had accused the six of deliberately infecting more than 400 Libyan children with HIV; 50 of the children died. The medics, jailed since 1999, were initially sentenced to death, but later had their sentence commuted to life imprisonment. They deny the charge, and say their confessions were extracted under torture.

Dutch television showed images of his family in the town of Woerden, near Utrecht, rejoicing after his release.

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