Release of Tripoli 6 / Benghazi 6!

I woke this morning to BBC reporting that the six Bulgarian nurses and doctor charged erroneously with transmitting HIV to over 400 Libyan children have been released and are safely home in Bulgaria.

Orac and Revere here at ScienceBlogs covered the upholding of death sentences against the six that opened the procedural door to their release.

It appears that the wife of new French prime minister Nicolas Sarkozy, Cecilia, played an important role over the last 48 hrs in negotiating the terms of release together with other EU officials. The terms are only just beginning to emerge, but it appears that the Libyan High Judicial Council made its decision after the equivalent of $1 million was pledged to families of each of the 438 children affected with HIV at the Benghazi hospital. ("An EU official told the BBC that the payout was made from the Gaddafi Foundation, a charity overseen by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's son, Seif al-Islam.")

However, commentators on BBC Radio this morning questioned the wisdom of the EU reopening diplomatic ties with a nation that is responsible for the deaths of thousands of its critics in Libya and elsewhere. This discussion will no doubt expand in the coming days.

Many thanks are due to Revere at Effect Measure for raising awareness of this case with a great many science bloggers. The high-profile support of Nature's Declan Butler is also deserving of great praise. It will be interesting to learn what others think of the impact of the scientific press and blogosphere in contributing to international attention to this case.

Thankfully, justice has played out and the scientific facts have won. However, nothing will diminish the pain and suffering experienced by our international medical colleagues over the last eight years whose original admission of guilt was secured by methods of torture.

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About a month and a half ago, I posted an update to the story of the plight of a group of medical professionals who have come to be known as the "Tripoli 6" or the "Benghazi 6." These are six foreign medical workers who were falsely accused by Libyan authorities intentionally infecting over 400…
Declan Butler of Nature has issued a call for help from the scientific and medical blogosphere in protesting and raising awareness about an utter travesty of justice, a vile and utterly vicious miscarriage of justice. This is one that I can't help but throw the paltry weight of my own blog behind.…
The final act in the drama of five Bulgarian nurses and one Palestinian doctor imprisoned for seven years and sentenced to death by firing squad in Libya after being accused of deliberately infecting over 400 chidren with HIV in a children's hospital in Bengazi (see posts here) is now being played…
Last fall, I and quite a few other bloggers wrote about the Tripoli Six. These are six foreign medical workers arrested for allegedly intentionally infecting over 400 children with HIV in a Libyan hospital and, thanks to the ignorant hysteria whipped up against them and the need of the Libyan…

Thankfully, justice has played out and the scientific facts have won.

I'd be interested to know on what you base this conclusion. I don't think I've seen anything that indicated that the scientific facts had anything to do with the outcome.

By Scott Belyea (not verified) on 24 Jul 2007 #permalink

Scott, I see your point but my guess is that the Nature phylogeny paper might have give negotiators a scientific leg to stand on in arguing the innocence of the medics. I do, agree, however, that none of the press accounts to date cite the importance of the scientific facts.

Indirectly the scientific facts have won out, since it was those that convinced the EU to get involved on behalf of Bulgaria. The PM of Bulgaria has made clear that without the commitment of the EU, the release of the six would never have happened.

One minor note about your post Abel - the doctor is actually Palestinian. He was granted Bulgarian citizenship last month, to enable him to get transfered to Bulgaria with the other five. Technically, they got transfered to Bulgaria to serve the rest of their sentence, and then got pardonned by the Bulgarian President.

Kristjan, as always you are quite thorough. Yes, I meant to imply that the Palestinian doctor is now Bulgarian (i.e., six Bulgarian nurses and doctor) by virtue of his being granted citizenship. I neglected to note that they were then turned over to Bulgaria to complete their sentence but were then officially pardoned by the president of Bulgaria. Thanks for making things more clear.

Sorry if I came off as a nitpicker. I didn't want to make it sound like your post was wrong Abel - the essence was right, but there were some interesting diplomatic moves involved that I thought was worth mentioning.

When looking at this story, I can't help but wonder if the current US president will learn anything about the proper use of presidental pardons, as demonstrated by the Bulgarian president.

No offense taken, Kris. I was joking a bit as I admire how thorough you are on your blog.

Indeed, there are many things the current US president can learn from the conduct of other international leaders.