This isn’t, strictly speaking, jihad-related. But… here’s a new milestone in a bizarre ongoing story from the land of Muammar al-Qaddafi (the same fellow who bears a striking resemblance to the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church) as reported today by the Associated Press:
TRIPOLI, Libya — Six foreign health workers jailed in Libya for years on charges of deliberately infecting children with the AIDS virus were convicted and sentenced to death in a case that has long sparked international outrage and did so again Tuesday.
The United States and Europe had called for the release of the five Bulgarian nurses and Palestinian doctor, warning Libya that the ruling would affect relations. Already the long trial has held up efforts by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to repair his rogue image and rebuild ties with the West.
The nurses and doctor have been in jail since 1999 on charges that they spread the HIV virus to more than 400 children at a hospital in the Libyan city of Benghazi during a botched experiment to find a cure for the disease. Western nations blame the infections on unsanitary conditions at Libyan hospitals and accuse Tripoli of using the six health workers as scapegoats.
Bulgaria and the EU swiftly condemned the decision, and chief Bulgarian counsel Trayan Markovski said the defendants would appeal to the Libyan Supreme Court.
“Sentencing innocent people to death is an attempt to cover up the real culprits and the real reasons for the AIDS outbreak in Benghazi,” said Bulgarian parliamentary speaker Georgi Pirinski.
This is actually the nurses’ second trial; their first death sentence was overturned, and they were granted a retrial, after international outrage over their sentences. They’ve been in prison for seven years. Seven years! Can you imagine seven years in a Libyan prison?
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DNA analysis has confirmed that the virus that infected the children could not possibly have been spread by the accused nurses, since it was present before they arrived. But the Libyans aren’t about to let the facts stand in the way of a good infidel hanging.
An international legal observer, Francois Cantier of Lawyers Without Borders, promptly criticized the retrial as lacking scientific rigor. 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.
“We need scientific evidence. It is a medical issue, not only a judicial one,” Cantier said after the verdict. His colleague, Ivan Paneff, said Lawyers Without Borders had tried to persuade the judges to commission international experts to investigate conditions at the hospital but “they refused.”
Bulgaria’s Pirinski made the same point in Sofia, saying: “The court has not taken into account the unquestionable judicial and scientific evidences for the innocence of the medics.”
Luc Montagnier — the French doctor who co-discovered HIV — testified in the first trial that the 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.
Here’s a final fillip to the story:
Idriss Lagha, the president of a group representing the victims, rejected the Nature article, telling a news conference in London on Monday that the nurses had infected the children with a “genetically engineered” virus. He accused them as doing so for research on behalf of foreign intelligence agencies.
The Libyans seem to be drinking from the same moon-pool as African-Americans who believe that the AIDS virus was created by the CIA specifically to commit genocide against black people in the United States.
Is there a Central Rumor Agency that the supplies talking points for the Libyans as well as Al Sharpton? Or maybe there’s an Urban Legend listserv that they all subscribe to?
If you’re the praying type, say a quick prayer for those nurses stuck in Middle East Hell.