Innocent medics face death in Libya
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:
As Revere notes, the many of the fantastic allegations against the health care workers were extracted under torture.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“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 executionÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ 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.Ã¢â‚¬Â
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 Ã¢â‚¬â€ 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 Ã¢â‚¬â€ that the medics will be condemned to death, with this being commuted to a life sentence Ã¢â‚¬â€ is unacceptable. They are innocent, and the law and science can prove it, if they get the belated opportunity.
Here's a synopsis of the legal status of the Tripoli 6, also from Nature.