Five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor languish in a Libyan prison, a sentence of death hanging over them. They’ve been there for eight years now, subject to torture and privation. The doctor’s injuries are such that even if he is ever set free, he will no longer be able to practice medicine.
This is not a new story. It has been covered widely on both sides of the blogospheric divide. Interestingly, this is one case when the liberal and conservative factions are in agreement: these people are being held on trumped-up charges, for purposes of revenge and an exactment of tribute. In fact, America has been dealing with “the shores of Tripoli” since her very beginnings. Definitely this is merely another phase of an ancient enmity. I hope to make the case that even though the country most vitally and hurtfully involved at the moment is Bulgaria, the USA figures largely in the background. Demon America.
Gates of Vienna hasn’t covered this story much. The Baron posted briefly on it back in December, and we discussed it on occasion as the various “trials” dragged through what passes for jurisprudence in the despotic nightmare Colonel Muammar al-Ghaddafi has built. Then, yesterday, a doctor in the Middle East emailed us, asking that we look at some links about what Bulgaria is doing to ease its national pain.
The website’s English portal lays out plans for a national demonstration, beginning in Sophia and centering on St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. Under the aegis of three leading Bulgarian MSM members, a campaign called “You Are Not Alone” will allow what has been a low-level movement to synergize. It will become something more akin to solidarity with their suffering fellow citizens, imprisoned unjustly, grossly mistreated, and so far from home. The movement has a name, a ribbon, and a national song, all bearing that same title: “You Are Not Alone” [we hope to find a clip of the music. Many of the foremost singers, across a wide spectrum of genres, have contributed performances for this. It is a recognition that music has the power to heal, to bring people together, and to provide the necessary spirit to overcome injustice].
I spent a long time looking at the various strands in this story, curious as to what had transpired to bring about the end result: those innocent nurses now condemned to death. Or at least with Damocles’ sword hanging over them. Normally I avoid in-depth reports on such events. They seem too opaque, too hopeless, too full of cynical manipulation to dwell on very much. But, as the case of Nazanin in Iran proves, international pressure can be effective. Besides, the doctor’s plea to look at the story overcame my reluctance.
This is a large story with many players and it ventures into areas where Gates of Vienna has little or no expertise. However, it is my hope that our many knowledgeable readers will arrive to fill in the blanks, to modify the existing information, or to contradict what we think with verifiable fact. I will simply be presenting what I was able to find prior to the deadline for posting this story before the big demonstration in Sophia tomorrow (February 9th).
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First of all, the story needs some context. We are sure of certain conclusions; some of our surmises are based on partial information. And in the end there is more than one villain – i.e., not just Colonel Muammar al-Ghaddafi – and at least a few cynical operators. When we finish, there will be unanswered questions. I hope they spur all of us on to find some practical solutions.
Let’s go back twenty two years to 1985. That’s when Libya was accused of sponsoring the attacks on the airports in Rome and Vienna. As you can see, the Colonel and his cronies have been at this a long time. They’re good at it. From there, we can follow the trail of events that enmeshed six medical personnel in a hellhole thirteen years later:
1986: In March, the US decided to “send a message to Libya re its support of international terrorism.” To do so, a carrier task force was ordered into international waters in the Gulf of Sidra. Though it did not violate the twelve-mile limit of international maritime law regarding sovereign boundaries (the Gulf of Sidra extends far out into international waters), the expected aggressive response from Libya was forthcoming. In the end, Libya’s radar systems and her missile attack boats were destroyed.
Three weeks later, in April, a disco in Berlin was bombed, killing three people and wounding two hundred. Two of the fatalities were American servicemen. The US obtained information that Libyan agents in East Germany were behind the attacks.
That same month, following President Reagan’s orders, an air strike on Libya hit five military targets (collateral damage included a French consulate which was accidentally hit during the raid).
There was sporadic biteback: two British hostages held by the Abu Nidal Group in Lebanon were hanged; an American journalist in Jerusalem was assassinated.
1987-88: Things quieted down some. The Colonel had to quell some internal mutiny — problems he blamed on the US. Who knows? Our intelligence services may well have been behind the unrest. But it was also a period in which Ghaddafi was busy increasing his arms shipments to international terrorist groups. The provisional IRA in Northern Ireland was grateful for his help.
Then came December 21, 1988 and the Pan Am Lockerbie disaster. Eventually it was seen as an attack on the USA, since 189 of the 270 dead were American citizens headed home for the Christmas holidays.
1991: Indictments for murder were issued on November 13, 1991, against Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, a Libyan intelligence officer and the head of security for Libyan Arab Airlines (LAA), and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, the LAA station manager in Luqa Airport, Malta.
1999: After protracted negotiations and UN sanctions against Libya, Ghaddafi handed over the two accused.
2001: Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi was found guilty and sentenced to twenty seven years in prison. His co-defendant was acquitted and returned to Libya.
That, briefly, is the chronology of the hostilities: Libya vs. the civilized world, and America in particular. Much detail has been omitted, but is widely available elsewhere, including the embellishment supplied by all the conspiracy theorists.
What the timeline does is establish some of Ghaddafi’s possible motives for imprisoning the Bulgarian nurses. Notice that this event took place in 1998, before he turned over al Megrahi to stand trial. And the nurses were taken fully three years before he formally accepted his financial compensation to the families of the 270 dead in the Lockerbie disaster. Even in 1998, he must have known his intelligence officer was going down for the count. Perhaps this move against the nurses was his preparation for that event.
According to the film Injection, Ghaddafi tried several other gambits before settling on the Bulgarian nurses. One Hungarian nurse was imprisoned and then let go. Some Filipina nurses were also detained and then released. Next, he took Polish nurses – one of whom “accidentally” fell six stories to her death. The rest were let go. Finally thirty-eight Bulgarian health workers were detained. Eventually, all were released except for the five nurses currently in prison, and the Palestinian doctor.
They are still there. And now their fellow citizens are rising to the occasion. The demonstrations will begin in just a few hours. Who knows what will develop from the experience, what national spirit will evolve to aid in the release of these women?
Meanwhile, there are many unanswered questions about the spread of the AIDS virus in the Children’s Hospital where they worked. Not only questions about the particularly virulent strain which infected children admitted there, but how it was transmitted so quickly and so prevalently.
We will address those issues in the next installment. There will be questions about the role of the World Health Organization in the spread of AIDS in Africa, questions about the practices of some medical supply companies that led to antitrust charges, and questions about how AIDS is really spread in African countries. Is “safe sex” enough to prevent the spread of AIDS, particularly among children?
First off: sorry if this has already been mentioned or if you are already aware of this.
This has been a big deal in Bulgaria for quite sometime. The people are outspoken about it, and there is graffiti, posters, and even an office in Sofia concerning this issue.
I do believe is just a pawn in this. And conspiracy is the most logical.
This website mentioned how AIDs being spread by poor hygiene in hospitals has been a problem even before the Bulgarian nurses arrived, and even continued to be a problem after their arrests.
On the same site:
Although he concurred with the guilty verdict, Gaddafi proposed releasing the six medics if, quid pro quo:
The convicted Pan Am Flight 103 bomber Megrahi, serving a life sentence in a Scottish jail, were to be released; and,
US$2.7 billion compensation were paid to Libya for the care of the HIV-infected patients (the exact sum offered by Libya in compensation for the 270 lives lost in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing).
This is also backed up in part by the NYTimes, which said:
The families have asked that Bulgaria or other donors provide $10 million for each child, the same amount that Libya agreed to pay each of the families of the 270 people who were killed in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. Libya has accepted responsibility for the bombing.
Under Libyan law, crime victims’ families have the power to grant clemency in return for compensation. The families of the infected children have said that they would agree to release the medical workers from the criminal charges if their request was satisfied.
Can we put the hurt on Q/K/Gaddafi soon?
This is a side issue, but note the female guards. Qhadafi’s brand of Islam is not typical, anymore than his brand of commnunism – he is a true original. His personal bodyguard is a corps of 40 or so fiercely loyal (and quite handsome and stylish) female soldiers (all virgins, so it is said), and women are recruited for the regular army services. bodyguards pics>
The other thing I have heard (wish I had a source) is that the conviction of the Bulgarians is overwhelmingly supported by the Libyan people, even some “westernized” ones, because they have bought the conspiracy theories. They know AIDS is caused by western decadence, and since they live in revolutionary paradise, it could not but have been brought in by outsiders. It’s possible even Muammar believes the nonsense about the nurses working for Mossad – we have never known for sure just how crazy he really is.
During the trial, the Libyan health Minister (who is definitely covering for his own failings) said:
“Libya is the only country in the world which suffered this epidemic through a perpetrator (who injected) hundreds of Libyan children, the victims, with the HIV virus,” Rashid was quoted as saying by Libya’s official news agency Jamahiriya.
Thanks for the links.
My original source wanted to emphasize that the “You Are Not Alone” campaign was a more coordinated effort. This kind of public pressure can be effective. I’d love to see pictures of the demonstration in Sofia. And if you have any links to a clip of the music composed for “You Are Not Alone” please send them my way…
I just can’t understand why he finally settled on the Bulgarians. Did he think that he had more chance of pulling off his swindle than using the Hungarians, the Filippinas, or the Polish? Very strange. Of course, *he* is a strange dude, anyway.
When I have time, I’m going to try to find Oriana Fallaci’s interview of him from years ago.
Of course these women are pawns. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the Colonel had them stashed in jail before his terrorist was even tried. They are his “get out of jail free” card. And isn’t it a coincidence that the money amounts to what he had to pay out for Lockerbie.
His son is no better.
The families of these children are pawns, too. Their “demands” are orchestrated by Ghaddafi, as are the demonstrations. Notice the identical signs in some of the demonstrations.
I’ve actually heard those conspiracy theories from black friends. I point out that conspiracy theories rest on a bed of deep inferiority.
I noticed those female guards…he’s a strange dude.
Dymphna said “When I have time, I’m going to try to find Oriana Fallaci’s interview of him from years ago.”
The tapes of these interviews are preserved in special containers at a special temperature in the Oriana Fallaci Collection at Boston University.
Conspiracy theories are stock in trade in the Middle East. It’s far easier to blame one’s failings on a deep seated conspiracy (always foreigners) than to look in the mirror. Too bad they can’t “stand outside themselves” and realize what complete imbeciles they appear to the civilized world.
Dymphna, you can purchase the original Qaddafi interview from the NYT archives for $5 (I know, grit your teeth).
Wonderful (and famous – I’m sure you know it) Oriana story from her Khomenei interview:
Why, she asked, did Khomeini compel women to “hide themselves, all bundled up,” when they had proved their equal stature by helping to bring about the Islamic revolution? Khomeini replied that the women who “contributed to the revolution were, and are, women with the Islamic dress”; they weren’t women like Fallaci, who “go around all uncovered, dragging behind them a tail of men.” A few minutes later, Fallaci asked a more insolent question: “How do you swim in a chador?” Khomeini snapped, “Our customs are none of your business. If you do not like Islamic dress you are not obliged to wear it. Because Islamic dress is for good and proper young women.” Fallaci saw an opening, and charged in. “That’s very kind of you, Imam. And since you said so, I’m going to take off this stupid, medieval rag right now.” She yanked off her chador.
Dymphna, I have run posts on this but this is the definitive one here. Thanks for taking us through that. By the way, check Girlpower tomorrow evening.