Medicine Politics Pseudoscience Skepticism/critical thinking

Resolution of the Tripoli Six story

I’ve been a bit remiss about reporting an update on the Tripoli Six, six foreign health care workers who were falsely accused of intentionally infecting children at a hospital in Libya with HIV, leading to their being convicted and sentenced to death. The evidence against them was crap, and scientific analyses showed that the strain of HIV in question had been in the hospital before the arrival of the Tripoli Six. After a lot of international wrangling between Bulgaria, the EU, and Libya involving diplomacy and more than a bit of money, the Tripoli Six are free. The arrangement involved the six being extradited to Bulgaria, supposedly to serve out their commuted sentence there. It was widely expected that Bulgaria would free them, but apparently, now that Bulgaria has freed them, Libya is none too pleased:

SOFIA, Bulgaria, July 28 — Calling the action a betrayal, Libya on Saturday denounced a decision by Bulgaria’s president to pardon six medical workers who had been given life sentences in Libya before they were released from the country this week.

Libya’s foreign minister, Abdelrahman Shalgham, said at a news conference in Tripoli that the workers should have been detained upon their arrival in Bulgaria on Tuesday and not freed in a “celebratory and illegal manner,” Agence France-Presse reported.

The medics, five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor, had been sentenced to death twice in Libya after being convicted of intentionally infecting more than 400 Libyan children with H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS — a charge that AIDS experts have dismissed as baseless. They were held for eight and a half years before their sentence was commuted this month to life in prison after the families of the children each received $1 million.

The commutation paved the way for their transfer to Bulgaria because, under the terms of a 1984 agreement between Libya and Bulgaria, citizens of one country convicted of crimes in the other can serve sentences in their own nation. The Palestinian doctor was granted Bulgarian citizenship this year.

It was widely expected that Bulgaria would free the medical workers on their return, but Libyan leaders suggested Saturday that they had expected them to serve their time.

How disingenuous. The whole thing was done with a lot of nudge, nudge, wink, wink–the Libyans would be idiotic not to know what the Bulgarians would do. That was an implicit part of the deal. Either the Libyans are really dumb or they’re just acting for domestic consumption to mollify the parents who had been demanding blood.

At least the healthcare workers are now home in Bulgaria and free. Personally, I like seeing it rubbed in Libya’s face. I’m hoping that, now that the Tripoli Six are free, they will speak out about their ordeal. I want to know what happened to them during their eight year ordeal.

The whole story would make a good movie, now that we know there’s a happy ending.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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