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September 21, 2006

Medics face death in Libya on false charges of giving HIV to kids

Declan Butler hopes the blogosphere can help free the Tripoli 6, six health care professionals who are about to be executed for allegedly giving Libyan children HIV.

The prestigious journal Nature published an unusually strongly-worded denunciation of Libya's attempt to scapegoat innocent people:

“Imagine that five American nurses and a British doctor have been detained and tortured in a Libyan prison since 1999, and that a Libyan prosecutor called at the end of August for their execution… on trumped-up charges of deliberately contaminating more than 400 children with HIV in 1998. Meanwhile, the international community and its leaders sit by, spectators of a farce of a trial, leaving a handful of dedicated volunteer humanitarian lawyers and scientists to try to secure their release.

Implausible? That scenario, with the medics enduring prison conditions reminiscent of the film Midnight Express, is currently playing out in a Tripoli court, except that the nationalities of the medics are different. The nurses are from Bulgaria and the doctor is Palestinian.”


The principles of law and science have the common aim of discovering the truth. A previous assessment of the case by two prominent AIDS researchers, Luc Montagnier and Vittorio Colizzi, concluded that the charges are false, that the medics are innocent, and that the infections resulted from poor hygiene in Libya's hospitals. It was not a plot orchestrated by the CIA and Israel's Mossad, as President Gaddafi alleged in 2001 — an allegation that has driven a popular thirst for vengeance in Libya.

The case is politically embarrassing for Gaddafi. Finding a scapegoat is easier than having to admit that the infection of the children was an accidental tragedy. But the most likely diplomatic compromise — that the medics will be condemned to death, with this being commuted to a life sentence — is unacceptable. They are innocent, and the law and science can prove it, if they get the belated opportunity.

As Revere notes, the many of the fantastic allegations against the health care workers were extracted under torture.

Here's a synopsis of the legal status of the Tripoli 6, also from Nature.


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Good luck to them. It seems like they'll need it.

There was a story that went around in the mid-80s, that the CIA was responsible for the development of AIDS, because of biological experiments they'd undertaken in Africa that had gotten away from them. I remember hearing about this on independent radio at the time. It turned out that a KGB officer named Oleg Kelugia (sp?) had put the story about as black propaganda. Strange that Gaddafi is almost resurrecting the myth.

Nothing wacky that Qaddafi says is "strange". His speeches tend to be 4 hrs long and not a sane sentence in them.

This case came to mind recently. I had read about a year ago that it might be close to resolution.

I'm sorry that it hasn't been resolved, that these innocent people are still in prison.

In May, the US and Libya reestablished diplomatic relations, an action I supported, esp as it involved the dismantling of the Libya WMD programs. But you wonder if, with just a bit more leverage, this insane case could have been resolved as part of the overall deal.

The EU, which Bulgaria is set to join in a few months, should have a lot of leverage that could be used here. The US is not without leverage either. They had better use it.

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