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You Are Not Alone!

by Navaros Tue Apr 3rd, 2007 at 08:57:39 AM EST

I have been reading this blog for more than a year now (although I don't post for most of the time) and I just realized that there is only one diary covering the fate of the Bulgarian (and Palestinian) medics in Libya, charged with intentionally infecting Libyan children with the virus of HIV. In the light of the "You Are Not Alone" campaign recently started by Bulgarian media, I decided to try and update you on the case as well as make a plea to you.

Brought over by afew


I will not discuss the entire trial against the medics since there is already a fairly good summary of the events up to February, 2006 in JulyMorning's diary Seven Years in Lybia.

In the last year or so, there has been limited, if any, success of the international attempts to free the five Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian doctor. A fairly large number of international media and public figures joined in the efforts to influence Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi and convince him in the innocence of his prisoners - UK medical journal "The Lancet," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, singer Sylvie Vartan, to name a few.

Nonetheless, six days before Christmas, on December 19, 2006 a Libyan court reiterated the sentences of the five Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian doctor - all six were sentenced to death by firing squad. Bulgaria condemned the verdict as unjust and failing to take into consideration scientific evidence crucial to the court's decision. A number of peaceful street protests ensued in Bulgaria, showing the support of the Bulgarian people for he nurses. About a month later the verdict was appealed to the Supreme Court. In the meantime, the EU and US were also quick to state their disagreement with the death sentences. Despite their general disagreement with the judicial process and the verdict, "old" EU countries have been rather mild in visions of sanctions towards Libya. Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, for instance, said that:

Italy supports the release of the death-sentenced Bulgarian nurses from prison, but we[Italy] shall not exert pressure or impose economic sanctions on Tripoli.

After the initiation of the "You Are Not Alone" campaign by BTV(tv station), Standart(newspaper), and Darik(radio), even more international support has been gathered for the Bulgarian nurses. Singer George Michael, who is invited to participate in a concert in Bulgaria this May, took heartily to the cause of the campaign and promised to sing Freedom especially for the Bulgarian nurses. Currently, car stickers, banners, and ribbons with the Bulgarian national flag and the slogan "You Are Not Alone" are distributed for free to anyone willing to join in the campaign. And although most people seem genuinely concerned with the cause of the campaign there is little they can do but wear ribbons on their overcoats and await for the hearing at the Supreme Court.

My plea to you is, and I hope it is not too much to ask, to add the "You Are Not Alone" banner to the European Tribune site. The needed files can be found on the official site of the campaign youarenotalone.com The site also contains some publications and other details concerning the trial and the campaign. However, I would also understand you if you decide not to put on the banner for political, moral, or other reasons.

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Despite their general disagreement with the judicial process and the verdict, "old" EU countries have been rather mild in visions of sanctions towards Libya. Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, for instance, said that:

Italy supports the release of the death-sentenced Bulgarian nurses from prison, but we[Italy] shall not exert pressure or impose economic sanctions on Tripoli.

Gah. I'm not sure economic sanctions would achieve their goal, but there are lots of other means to exert pressure, and Prodi appears to shrug them off all. Hypocrisy like that of other EU countries about death sentences in 'friendly' countries, except no superpower is included in the equation.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Apr 3rd, 2007 at 07:35:47 AM EST
I mean, can't the EU at least lobby to get the sentence commuted to life imprisonment?

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 3rd, 2007 at 07:40:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To the EU's credit, they at least successfully lobbied for the retrial, but as you say.

I hope de Gondi or eternalcityblues will turn up, and tell us/find out if anyone is trying to press the Prodi government about this.

The other side of the equation is that, according to the article, public opinion has been whipped up in Lybia (scientific evidence dismissed as secret service spin by the victims' parents' representatives), which only adds to the governments' and the hospitals' cover-up.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Apr 3rd, 2007 at 07:46:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To the EU's credit, they at least successfully lobbied for the retrial

Yeah but if procrastination was the regime's chosen tactic for threading themselves between the Rock of international pariahdom and the Hard Place of popular discontent, then that was the EU pushing at an open door.

What can be done now to get these medicos out of this grotesque situation? Beats me.

Regards
Luke

-- #include witty_sig.h

by silburnl on Tue Apr 3rd, 2007 at 10:42:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the EU is trying to exert soft power over Qaddafi, but I don't know how responsive will a leader like him be to such a strategy.

What I forgot to mention is that personally I believe that Qaddafi won't allow the deaths of these nurses unless he totally loses his marbles. They appear to be such a good bargaining tool, don't they? The Colonel is in a rather intricate situation himself - if he allows the death of the nurses, Libya will be largely shut off from international affairs; on the other hand, if he sets them free, he risks popular unrest. He probably chose the best option for himself by simply procrastinating the trial for years to go. In that light, I don't think the problem will be resolved soon unless some radical change in the pressures and attitudes occurs.

by Navaros (pshipkov@@gmail.com) on Tue Apr 3rd, 2007 at 07:54:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Like I said, commuting the sentence to life in prison is an easy out for him. It buys time for everyone involved.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 3rd, 2007 at 08:00:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If Qaddafi sets the nurses and the doctor free, he not only risks spontaneous riots, but on the longer term, a loss of popular respect for/trust in both his judiciary and the medical services. This would be bad for him -- and bad for his bureaucracy, to make the picture depend on more than one person.

So either he finds a face-saving alternative, and the EU recognises it, doesn't bar it for him and presses him in that direction, or only a much much stronger confrontation would work (which the EU may not be up to even on the level of capabilities).

At any rate, on a broader view, getting off oil and gas is not only a question of climate change but moral politics.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Apr 3rd, 2007 at 08:07:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
From the linked article Libyan court condemns all accused to death for infecting children with HIV:

An international legal observer, Francois Cantier of Lawyers Without Borders, promptly criticized the retrial for failing to admit enough scientific evidence. Research published this month said samples from the infected children showed their viruses were contracted before the six defendants started working at the hospital in question.

...Europe, the United States and international rights groups have accused Libya of prosecuting the six foreign staff as scapegoats for dirty conditions at the Benghazi children's hospital.

Luc Montagnier - the French doctor who was a co-discoverer of HIV - testified in the first trial that the deadly virus was active in the hospital before the Bulgarian nurses began their contracts there in 1998.

More evidence for that argument surfaced on Dec. 6 - too late to be submitted in court - when Nature magazine published an analysis of HIV and hepatitis virus samples from the children.

Using changes in the genetic information of HIV over time as a "molecular clock," the analysts concluded that the virus was contracted before the six defendants arrived at the hospital - perhaps even three years before.



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Apr 3rd, 2007 at 07:41:24 AM EST
So, to put up or not put up the banner?

Some questions comes to my mind (in no particular order):

  1. Do we know enough about the case to feel comfortable with the banner?
  2. Do we know enough about the campaign?
  3. Do we support the message of the campaign?
  4. Is this the kind of site that should participate in this kind of campaign?
  5. Is it technically convenient to do?

My answers would be:
  1. yeah
  2. yeah (from this diary)
  3. yeah
  4. yeah
  5. should be, but I am not the one who would be doing it.

So in the republic of ET (however it might be constituted) I vote yes.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Tue Apr 3rd, 2007 at 02:03:54 PM EST
I vote yes too, but other frontpagers should vote too (especially the ones who'd decide where to put the banner). (Trouble is, most of us are very short on time at present.)

BTW, did you get my email?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Apr 3rd, 2007 at 02:14:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes too from me, but I don't know where it would go.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Apr 3rd, 2007 at 02:56:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I probably should have added a poll about who thinks it should be put up, but I decided not to risk splitting the community in case there was a strong camp against putting it up...
by Navaros (pshipkov@@gmail.com) on Tue Apr 3rd, 2007 at 04:56:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't get the bit about splitting the community. Put up the poll.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Apr 4th, 2007 at 04:39:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You can put up the poll, but it looks like frontpagers already voted for it. I'll try to implement it this afternoon, if I fail I'll ask Colman.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Apr 4th, 2007 at 06:21:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Now done. Also created a separate page linked from the logo. If I should place the logo differently, or there is a different logo better fitting in that place (e.g. flatter), tell me so.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Apr 4th, 2007 at 02:30:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
First off, a big, big "Thanks" to you! This means a lot to me since it makes me feel as if I actually did something little to help. All of you should have that feeling too, cause even a small banner can make a difference sometimes.

Also, some banners and ribbons of the campaign can be found here. I don't know if there is something more suitable  because I don't have PhotoShop and some of the files are in PhotoShop format.

by Navaros (pshipkov@@gmail.com) on Wed Apr 4th, 2007 at 05:33:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Regrettably, those aren't much better suited, either. Why I asked wasn't simply the size it takes up, I can (did) resize myself, but to fit in under the ET logo, the re-sizing makes the text on the ribbon unreadable.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Apr 5th, 2007 at 06:22:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I see no problem with putting up the banner either. Not my call obviously, but my two cents worth.

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Wed Apr 4th, 2007 at 03:42:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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