President George W. Bush on Monday urged Libya to free five Bulgarian nurses sentenced to death on charges of infecting hundreds of Libyan children with the HIV virus.
"The position of the United States is the nurses ought to be free," Bush told reporters during an Oval Office meeting between him and visiting Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov.
The nurses were convicted last year of deliberately infecting more than 400 children at a hospital in Benghazi. They insist they are innocent and that the only evidence against them is confessions extracted under torture, reports Reuters.
"Bush's words hurt the sick children's mothers, families and relatives," the Association of Families of the Victims Children said in a statement.
"We demand that the Libyan foreign ministry freezes its contacts with the United States until Bush apologizes in public for his comment," said spokesman Ramdane Fitouri, who read the statement.
Libya has urged Bulgaria to offer money to families of the infected children to persuade them to save the nurses from death. Bulgaria has refused, saying the nurses are innocent.
Libya's Supreme Court will rule November 15 on an appeal by the five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor.
The medics, convicted last year for deliberately infecting more than 400 children at a hospital in Benghazi, insist they are innocent and that the only evidence against them are confessions extracted under torture.
For the children's families, their expectation of the upcoming court ruling was clear. "The high court must confirm the sentences and announce the date when they will be killed by firing squad," their statement said, informs CNN.