Five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor were pardoned by President Georgi Parvanov upon their arrival in Sofia on Tuesday after spending 8 1/2 years in prison in Libya.
The medics, who were sentenced to life in prison for allegedly contaminating children with the AIDS virus, arrived on a plane with French first lady Cecilia Sarkozy and the EU's commissioner for foreign affairs, Benita Ferrero-Waldner.
The six came down the steps from the airplane and were welcomed on the tarmac by family members who hugged them, one lifting the Palestinian doctor off the ground.
They were given bouquets of flowers, and Bulgaria's president and prime minister were on hand, greeting the nurses and Sarkozy, who had been part of the delegation that negotiated the group's return.
''I waited so long for this moment,'' nurse Snezhana Dimitrova said before falling in the arms of her loved ones.
Libya accused the six of deliberately infecting more than 400 Libyan children with HIV. Fifty of the children died. The medics, jailed since 1999, deny infecting the children and say their confessions were extracted under torture.
These were trumped up charges, and the trial was marked by a refusal on Libya's part to allow scientific data clearing the health care workers. A campaign on their behalf was started by Nature in Sept 2006
Six medical workers in Libya face execution. It is not too late for scientists to speak up on their behalf.
Can the blogosphere help free the Tripoli six? — innocent medics risking execution in Libya
Major pieces were subsequently published in the NY Times and various medical journals, and Nobel-winning scientists lobbied the Libyan government along with various scientific and medical professional societies.
Letters were written, the story was blogged, pressure was brought to bear, and after years of stalemate, here they are. Kudos to Declan, the science bloggers and everyone who helped reverse this travesty of justice. Activism has its triumphs as well as its frustrations, and today is one of those triumphs.
Thank you all.