Bulgarian Medical Personnel on Trial in Libya for Allegedly Infecting Children with HIV
Six Bulgarian medical workers are facing trial in Libya for allegedly "intentionally" infecting 393 children in the Libyan city of Benghazi with HIV, charged with being part of a "vast conspiracy" to "undermine the security of the Libyan state," the Los Angeles Times reports. The five nurses and one doctor face the death penalty if convicted in the trial, which resumes Sunday after numerous interruptions. At the Abuja, Nigeria, HIV/AIDS summit last month, Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi "painted a picture of a vast conspiracy" in which the CIA developed HIV to benefit the Western pharmaceutical industry, and the Bulgarian medical workers gave the virus to the Libyan children for "experimental purposes," at the "behest" of either the United States or Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency. Libyan officials say they traced the HIV to the Bulgarian workers after children across the country who had at one time been treated at the Benghazi children's hospital where the Bulgarians worked tested HIV-positive. Bulgarian officials, who are "outrage[d]" by the accusations, say that the charges are "motivated by Kadafi's domestic and international calculations."
Retribution for Lockerbie?
Kadafi has made "vagu[e]" associations between the current trial and the recent trial of two Libyan suspects for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. He recently said that the Bulgarians would face "an international trial, like the Lockerbie trial," but did not elaborate on what he meant. Kadafi is suspected by many of ordering the bombing in retribution for the 1986 U.S. bombing of Libya. Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mikhailova, who met Monday in Sofia with Arab ambassadors, said, "The analogy made with the Lockerbie trial prompts thoughts about political moves aimed at turning the Bulgarian citizens into scapegoats for settling scores with other countries. Bulgaria will not accept a political trial against its citizens in Libya ... We think that putting the trial in context of experiments ordered by foreign forces -- because [Kadafi's] speech mentions the CIA and Mossad -- means politicizing the trial." Bulgarian officials said they are asking the World Health Organization, the Red Cross and the United Nations to look into the matter. Others, most notably the Bulgarian newspaper Trud, allege that Kadafi is looking to "target" domestic opposition. The paper theorizes that Libyan authorities picked Benghazi as the location for the "alleged scandal" because the city is a "stronghold of opposition to Kadafi" and that the talk of a CIA/Mossad conspiracy "may be intended to obscure the fact that the [real] target is domestic opposition" (Holley, Los Angeles Times, 5/9).