European Union Offers Improved Relations With Libya if Medical Workers Are Released
The European Union on Monday said that the body would improve its relations with Libya if the country releases the five Bulgarian nurses and Palestinian doctor sentenced to death for allegedly intentionally infecting hundreds of Libyan children with HIV, Reuters Health reports (Brunnstrom , Reuters Health, 1/22). The health workers in May 2004 were sentenced to death by firing squad for allegedly infecting 426 children through contaminated blood products at Al Fateh Children's Hospital in Benghazi, Libya. They also were ordered to pay a total of $1 million to the families of the HIV-positive children. The Libyan Supreme Court in December 2005 overturned the medical workers' convictions and ordered a retrial in a lower court. A court in Tripoli, Libya, last month convicted the health workers and sentenced them to death. The health workers say they are innocent of the charges, claiming that they were forced to confess and that they were tortured by Libyan officials during interrogations. The European Parliament on Thursday in a resolution called on E.U. member states to review their trade relations with Libya and to urge Libya to release the medical workers. The resolution called on E.U. members to review "the common policy of engagement with Libya in all relevant fields" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/18). Foreign ministers from 27 E.U. countries in a statement released after talks in Brussels, Belgium, expressed "grave concern" over last month's verdict (Brunnstrom , Reuters Health, 1/22). The ministers called for a "positive, fair and prompt solution" to the case (Brunnstrom , Reuters Health, 1/22). "In this context, the relations between the European Union and Libya can further develop," the statement said (Brunnstrom , Reuters Health, 1/22). According to an E.U. diplomat, E.U. members "want to send a very firm signal of solidarity with the Bulgarians and to make clear our position that the trial and verdict were not acceptable." Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos before the talks said that Spain has offered to provide treatment for some of the HIV-positive children, although numbers have not been discussed, Reuters Health reports (Brunnstrom , Reuters Health, 1/22).
European Parliament Should Not Politicize Case, Libyan Official Says
Seif al-Islam Gaddafi -- the son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and head of Gaddafi International Foundation for Charity Associations -- in a statement issued Saturday said that members of the European Parliament should not politicize the case of six medical workers, the AP/Washington Post reports. "Pressures by Europeans on Libya will have a negative impact on the situation of the nurses and the Palestinian doctor and will take the case out of its legal and judicial context to the political arena," Gaddafi in the statement said. He also said that European pressure would "hinder efforts exerted in several directions to reach a just solution and complete settlement for this issue" (El-Deeb, AP/Washington Post, 1/20). Mohammed Abdel-Rahman Shalgam, Libyan Foreign Liaison and International Cooperation Minister, speaking to the Libyan General People's Congress on Saturday said the country will not agree to the "unfair" European demands. "The independence of the Libyan judicial system is a red line, being part of our independence and sovereignty, and we can never accept interference in its affairs," Shalgam said, adding, "On the one hand, they (European countries) request the transparency and fairness of the judiciary, but when they see the fairness and transparency of judiciary, they demand the state's interference in the work of judiciary." Shalgam said that the current sentences are not the final word in the case and that decisions from the Supreme Court and the High Judicial Council are expected. "The High Judicial Council alone is the one to ratify the court's ruling," Shalgam said (Sarrar, Reuters, 1/21).