Libya Planning to Execute Nurses and Physician

By Sean Carroll | September 21, 2006 12:05 pm

Declan Butler, a reporter at Nature, is calling for scientists to follow the lead of Lawyers Without Borders in speaking out against the sham trial of the “Tripoli Six.” There is also an urgent editorial in Nature calling for action.

Tripoli Six

Five Bulgarian nurses (Valya Chervenyashka, Snezhana Dimitrova, Nasya Nenova, Valentina Siropulo, and Kristiyana Valtcheva) and one Palestinian doctor (Ashraf al-Hajuj) had been sentenced to death by firing squad for infecting more than 400 children with HIV at the al-Fateh Hospital in Benghazi in 1998. The Libyan Supreme Court ordered a retrial after international outrage at the unfairness of the original proceeding. During that trial, Luc Montagnier of the Pasteur Institute in Paris and Vittorio Colizzi of Rome’s Tor Vergata University analyzed the viruses from the children, concluding that they had mostly been infected before the health care workers ever arrived in Libya. This testimony was thrown out in favor of a study by Libyan doctors. It seems likely that the cause of the infections was poor hospital hygiene, which doesn’t reflect well on the Libyan government.

The medics have now spent five years in jail, during which two of the nurses were raped. Muammar Gaddafi’s government has demanded $5.5 billion in compensation if the prisoners are freed. As the Nature editorial says, scientists should be speaking out against this travesty of justice:

The scientific community has also been relatively silent on the case, perhaps in the hope that it would be sorted out by diplomacy. But the latter has not proved to be the case, and scientific leaders need to use all their influence urgently, as the fate of the medics will be sealed in the coming weeks. It is time not only to save the doctor and nurses, but also to defend a common vision of science and law in establishing the truth, above all other imperatives. Meanwhile, Gaddafi has the opportunity to put this affair behind him by giving the six an immediate pardon.

International pressure was crucial in forcing the original retrial of the six health-care workers; Bill Hooker has information about places to contact with expressions of concern. Anyone with a blog or other platform can help by spreading the word.

Thanks to Janet for the pointer.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Human Rights, World
  • Count Iblis

    I’ve seen a documentary about this case a few weeks ago. it was mentioned that Gaddafi might be willing to exchange the prisoners for the Libyan agent jailed for Lockerbie. Serious doubts have been raised about that conviction as well.

  • Scott

    If I were one of the prisoners I would be a little pissed at the scientific community for relying on that whole swift diplomacy thing … especially when I am going to be executed.

  • bg

    There has been a very long and convoluted relationship between Lybia and Bulgaria. Did something go wrong on the diplomatic levels? Did someone need to deliberately shift the public attention at a critical moment? Is it a deliberately established obstacle to stop Bulgaria on its route to the EU, among all other crazy obstacles that are already growing?

    Are the bulgarian nurses telling the truth? I don’t know. I don’t believe them 100%. They do have some involvement, is my belief. Part of their professional responsibilities is to monitor what substaces they administer and record every action performed to anyone. And they were hardly dilligent. Are they guilty? At least in this country, I belive that they are not until there is hard evidence to the contrary. Unfortunately, neither in Bulgaria, nor in Lybia, are the people as understanding.
    For negligence, they have served more than a deserving sentence and misfortune already.

    I cannot fail to sympathize with the parents either. In their shoes, of course, I would want to know who and how and I would want to punch the hell out of the responsible ones. And when you want something so badly, it is just too easy to settle on the first available victim and coin in your mind and in your heart the truth. I don’t blame them for pursuing a goal, I just blame them for not being objective about the inconclusive information that has been supplied. Further, keep in mind, that Lybia is not the best country in the world to criticise leaders, even if just a health minister.

    The readiness with which Lybia is extending a deal is suspicious enough to raise questions among the international community about the real interests that created and evolved this issue. Lybia does not want these people dead; they also want the deal. But the bulgarians cannot conceed because they would be admitting guilt.

    The trial will keep on rolling and rolling until someone smart designs a document which will grant Lybia some of what they want and allow the bulgarians leave with the suspicious but without the guilt.

    It is not that dramatic. It is just sad for the nurses who are stuck for a few more years in the prisons of Lybia.

  • Colst

    bg –
    How can they be responsible for what happened before they entered the country?

  • Count Iblis

    Colst, I’m afraid that it will be dificult to get them out of jail by arguing on the basis of the evidence alone.

    If they are convicted again, some deal needs to be done to get them released. If we insist that they are innocent and that they must be released unconditionally, then that will only anger Libya.

    If you look at how we deal with such issues ourselves, you’ll see that we aren’t much better either. E.g., Nancy Smith is still in jail and so is Jerome Campbell. Clearly the judicial system of the US can’t deal with this, i.e. admit that because of prosecutorial misconduct or other problems for which the legal system is not designed to deal with, the outcome of the judicial process is not fair in these cases.

    Of course, the US legal system is much better than that of Libya, but the issue is what happens in the (rare) case that things do go wrong. It is the same old story. And sometimes people responsible for mistakes are not even punished. :(

  • Colst

    “Colst, I’m afraid that it will be dificult to get them out of jail by arguing on the basis of the evidence alone.”

    Obviously, that hasn’t worked, but I wasn’t trying to get them out of jail (I doubt anyone involved in the trial is reading Rob’s bolg, much less the comments). I was addressing bg, who says that they are partly responsible due to negligence. My point was, how can their supposed negligence be to blame if the infections happened before they got there?

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  • bulgarian

    Well, all that i heard on the news,it makes me thinking there is a fact that we don’t know. I heard that there was a HIV-infected blood in the hospital, and Lybyans say it comes from Europe… isn’t it strange?
    I suppose that it really comes from Europe, and the nurses never knew what happened. So, the following is possible: Lybyans know this very clearly, but they put the blame on the nurses.
    Lybia owes a lot of money to Bulgaria. This is very convenient way to cancel giving the money back. They will just ask for a compensation and everithing would look fine… so, i think that the nurses will be free soon.
    And the US/EU politicians will make it look like they relieve the conflict, because this is the only way for their politics to get some kind of support in BG.
    In this way, both the US and Lybians are satisfied.
    I think it’s just a part of a horrible political plan. There’re a people who never care about neighter a hundreds of child’s lives nor the nurses’ freedom. There isn’t any humanity in the politics, that’s what i say…

  • panafrican

    Shame on anybody who is more preoccupied by the nurses lives than the live of more than 400 innocent children.
    We are not surprsied in africa about the solidarity in Europe and other white countries for these evil nurses.
    Europe has always been like that when it comes to poison african.

  • Denitza

    NO SHAME ON YOU panafracan
    It is very, very sad what happen to those kids, but 2 wrongs don’t make it right. It is proven that these people are not at fault for the epidemic. Do you know how much money the Libyan government owes the Bulgarian government, the same amount of money they are asking for as a compensation to the families. Have you ever thought that it might be just a little strange why they are asking for these money and releasing the nurses if they are so sure that they are guilty. THE GOVERNMENT OF THAT COUNTRY SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF THEMSELVES USING SUCH SAD EVENT TO GET RID OF THEIR NATIONAL DEBT.

  • Dr A

    Sorry Panafrican but as a white european I worked as a highly trained but low paid paediatrician in a government hospital in Southern Africa for a couple of years in the 90’s because of feelings of solidarity with local people. The europeans there were accused in the media of murdering children seemingly as a small part of a political argument between the local staff and the hospital management.

    There is a reason those children died and it would be good to discover it but an accusation of murder by outsiders is an easy way to hide the truth.

  • Diego from Barcelona

    I spent more than a year working in Libya and I can tell you that the whole affair doesn´t surprises me at all. I know the case of an italian worker arrested in the border by the libyan police and being thrown in jail for years just for having a caricature of Gaddafy.
    Only sick and stupid people (and you find many of those in certain backward countries) can believe those charges against the five Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian doctor.
    The European comunity and the UN should something to help and save them from that medieval horror. Economic sanctions would be a good start.

  • M. Simon

    This is a track back.

    Libya has been prosecuting a Palestinian doctor and several Bulgarian nurses for intentionally infecting children with AIDS.

    And who is the evil power behinfd this plot? One guess.

  • Dr. Andrew Maniotis

    A brief History of AIDS

    This year, in 2006, it has been 22 years since HIV, “a variant of a known human cancer virus,” was announced by media press release as being the probable cause of AIDS by Dr. Robert Gallo and Health and Human Services Secretary Margaret Heckler.

    Thus it has been about 22 years since Dr. Gallo rushed that same day to patent the first “HIV” test kit, and was subsequently convicted of scientific misconduct by the Dingell Commission and the Office of Scientific Integrity of the NIH for attempting to steal Luc Montagnier’s so-called “HIV-virus isolate [1].”

    It has also been about 22 years since chimp colonies were injected with “isolates” of “HIV” obtained from AIDS patients, but have yet to become ill, as they sit in their 27 million dollar retirement homes [2].

    At the beginning of HIV testing, it was known that “68% to 89% of all repeatedly reactive ELISA (HIV antibody) tests represent false positive results among sperm donors [3], and 14 years ago, it was reported that “HIV-sequences” exist in normal in human, chimpanzee, and rhesus monkey DNAs” [4].

    That same year, it was reported that the hepatitis B vaccine causes false positive “HIV” test results [5].

    It has been about 14 years since The Veterans Affairs Cooperative Study Group reported that “AZT disproportionately harmed Blacks and Hispanics, and provided no benefit to the quelling of advancing immune suppression in Caucasians” [6].

    It has also been about 14 years since it was known that half of infants that test “HIV” positive at birth serorevert (reverse) their “HIV-positive status within 18 months [7].

    It has been about 12 years since the announcement of the Concorde study reported:
    “The results of Concorde do not encourage the early use of zidovudine in symptom-free HIV-infected adults. They also call into question the uncritical use of CD4 cell counts as a surrogate endpoint for assessment of benefit from long-term antiretroviral therapy” [8].

    It has been 11 years since it was reported that flu vaccines cause false positive “HIV” test results [9].

    About 10 years ago, it was confirmed again that about 67% of infants that test “HIV” positive at birth serorevert (reverse) their “HIV-positive status by 18 months [10].

    It has been about 9 years since it was reported that “no seroconversions” were observed among 175 HIV-discordant couples (where one partner tests positive, one negative), for a total of approximately 282 couple-years of follow up in a 10- year study [11].

    It has been about 7 years since it was published in The Journal, AIDS, that children born to ZDV-treated mothers “are more likely to have a rapid course of HIV-1 infection compared with children born to untreated mothers, as disease progression and immunological deterioration are significantly more rapid and the risk of death is actually increased during the first 3 years of life” [12].

    It has also been about 7 years since it was known that goats and cows test “HIV-positive” [13]. It has been about 4 years since the announcement in The Journal of Virology regarding the severe toxicity of saquinovir and other protease inhibitors [14], and about 2 years since the announcement in the New England Journal of Medicine that vitamin supplements can ward off progression to AIDS in the absence of HAART (Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy) [15].

    It has been about 2 years since the announcement of the failure of AIDSVAX, the 120 million dollar effort to vaccinate against “HIV” [16], and 2 years since the Red Cross reported that even after repeated testing using different test kits, low-risk populations, such as blood donors (or military recruits) will typically yield 12 (PCR) positive or 2 (ELISA) positive results out of 37,000,000 samples, leaving potentially 10 out of 12 false positives, depending on which test kit you believe [17].

    It has more than a year since the announcement that the government’s chief of AIDS research, Dr. Edmond Tremont, rewrote a safety report on a U.S.-funded drug study to change its conclusions and delete negative information, and later, ordered the research resumed over the objections of his staff, so that George W. Bush’s pharmaceutical friend’s $500 million dollar plan to distribute nevirapine to African women would proceed, even though the drug’s approval was withdrawn in the U.S. because of excessive toxicity [18]. It only has been a year or so since the Institute of Medicine covered up and trivialized Tremont’s criminal behavior, according to Johnathan Fishbein, who blew the whistle, and was subsequently fired from his position as safety officer for the Nevaripine trials that Tremont, his boss, fudged [19].

    This summer at the Toronto International AIDS conference, Barre-Sinoussi (one of Luc Montagnier’s original group from whom Dr. Gallo hijacked LAV, later to be called “HIV”) “came out of the closet”, and said:

    “It is not clear if therapeutic vaccines might be useful, since 15 trials to date have not demonstrated definitive evidence of improved outcomes.”

    This month it was announced that “viral load is only able to predict progression to disease in 4% to 6% of HIV-positives studied, challenging much of the basis for current AIDS science and treatment policy” [20, 21].

    But the most amazing thing I have witnessed since I began following AIDS in the early 1980’s, was a documentary I saw the other night [22] in which CNN’s Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour is filmed walking through villages in Kenya, remarking about the fact that the impoverished orphaned children don’t have enough watered down gruel to drink down the deadly toxic drug nevirapine, and the failed anti-cancer drug AZT.

    In the documentary, Amanpour also provides the viewer with an interview with Stephen Lewis about his perspectives as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, a post he has held since June 2001 as a Commissioner for the World Health Organization’s Commission on the Social Determinants of Health, as Senior Advisor to the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York, Director of the Stephen Lewis Foundation, and recipient of many awards and 22 honorary degrees including a Companion of the Order of Canada, Maclean’s Magazine 2003 “Canadian of the Year,” and in Time Magazine’s April 2005 100 most influential people in the world.

    After looking into Lewis’s impressive credentials, I noticed that in a speech Lewis gave at the closing session of the XVI International AIDS conference in Toronto this summer, he presented a list of issues regarding AIDS in the world and especially in Africa. In his speech, Lewis spent one of the sessions vilifying The South African Minister of Health for advocating foods that are important for nutrition and health.

    The sixth most important issue, according to Lewis, was:

    ” Number 6: It is now accepted as unassailable truth that people in treatment need nutritious food supplements to maintain and tolerate their treatment. And yet, there is a growing clamour from People Living with AIDS that decent nutrition simply isn’t available, leaving them in a desperate predicament. The World Food Programme released a study at this conference calculating the cost of food supplementation at 66 cents a day for an entire family; what madness is it that denies the World Food Programme the necessary money?”

    In other words, “the growing clamour” from people living with AIDS, as Mr. Lewis described with such touching humanity, is another way of saying “we are hungry- we are starving for food and water.” Those people can’t possibly be receiving the amount of protein, in either vegetable or animal form, to sustain immunity. Both in Amanpour’s documentary, and in Lewis’s lofty speech before the International AIDS conference where he lists food as number 6 in importance (following of course more important things like circumcision and microbicides to smear on African people’s genitals), I was struck with the intractable paradox of how the AIDS establishment now proposes to dose all these children with highly toxic immune suppressive drugs such as nevirapine and AZT, when they don’t have enough food and water to wash down the pills. The cart is before the horse here, if you see what I mean.

    When considering assays in human patients which diagnose “AIDS” by quantifying the number of lymphocytes/ml, patients are not considered to have an AIDS-defining illness if thy have suffered from chronic starvation, as these individuals are known to possess a helper T-cell ratio in the AIDS-defining range or even lower (

  • Bulgarian in Africa

    HA panafrican is a racist

  • nc

    Well at least Gaddafi, despite being evil and insane, isn’t sexist in the usual way … he only has FEMALE bodyguards. In the photo above, there are two female guards. Will be firing squad be composed of females too?

  • Arun

    On either here or, a big fuss was made over flying imams. Will you make a fuss about the kind of stuff below? I guess not, it might be culturally insensitive, and of course, Saudi Arabia is a US ally.

    Wednesday December 20 2006 09:42 IST

    ALAPPUZHA: Losing one’s way in Saudi Arabia could mean losing one’s life. Jojo Joseph, 31, a native of Mariyapuram, near Edathua, in Alappuzha district stumbled on this great truth on Monday. What saved him from the sword was the timely intervention of the Union Government.

    Jojo, an employee of an electronic firm in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, who had gone to a place near Madina to see his wife Sheeba, a nurse, and their new-born, lost his way and ended up on the road to Madina.

    Jojo, who did not know that the road was out of bounds for people belonging to other religions during the pilgrimage season, was arrested by the police at Al-Azeez, a place near Madina. The Saudi religious court ordered that Jojo be beheaded at noon (IST) on Tuesday ‘for trespassing into the area.’

    Jojo conveyed the news to his folks in Mariyapuram who contacted Opposition Leader Oommen Chandy.

    Chandy, who was in Kottayam, directed his office to send fax messages to the Indian embassy in Saudi Arabia, Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi, Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahmed and T K A Nair, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister. “It was a race against time,” said Oommen Chandy.

    “After sending the messages, I called up Vayalarji, Ahmed and Nair. They swung into action in no time. The embassy came to know about the incident only when they received my fax,” Chandy said.

    Chandy spoke to Jojo on his cellphone who gave him the name of the police station where he was lodged.

    At the instance of the Prime Minister’s office, the External Affairs Secretary contacted the Saudi Government and convinced the authorities that Jojo had lost his way and that there was no ulterior motive in moving along the road.

  • Arun

    And this is in Canada:

    I have an email acquaintance with the person in the story. I worry about communities that do not protect their liberal voices. (Yes, that on occasion includes mine.)

  • Lipitor

    Thanks for you site! My – lipitor and bad credit loan.

  • Khalid

    I have not seeing a comment by an Arab person. Of course, this comotion has a political game more than anything else. Whay is suprising me here is the bias of the writing towards Libia. If these bulguaria nurses are tried in European country, they will be free and if they were tried in an Arab country, they will be convicted. Think of an Arab descent being tried in Europe or US. “Automatic conviction….” This world is divided based on race an ethnicity. I feel sorry for the innocent people who pay the price with one way or the other.

  • keith weinman

    The nurses and one doctor are INNOCENT.They are scapegoats for a corrupt and inefficient arab political system that cannot even run its hospiitals. As noted by experts(Note that islamic judges are NOT experts in anything) these people cannot have caused the illnesses in the children, and even I am aware of the incubatiion period of the virus and that this precludes any possibility of infection by these innocent people. They are innocent, and these arabs have stolen many years of their lives. As for panafrican, you are an ignorant, uneducated, racist. You are evil. and if you feel that your inadequacies will be satisfied by the murder of innocent nurses and one doctor you are to be pitied. These innocent women and one doctor are being used by a corrupt arab government for political gains – My solution, shut the arabs out of our societies, forcibly get the nurses returned (diplomancy cannot work when you are dealing with life forms sufficiently less evolved than worms) and consider the fact that while arab governments scream when an arab is mistreated by non-arabs, they keep their racist mouths shut when non-arabs and non-muslims are murdered and tortured by arabs. By the way Khalid, when a Arab is tried in a European court he/she gets a fair trial – do a bit of homework and you will find a very large number of cases where arabs have been treated extremenly leniently in western societiies because we in the west have this bad habit of saying – give them another chance. SO DO NOT CLAIM THE BIAS IS BECAUSE OF ETHNIC GROUNDS – IT IS BECAUSE WE KNOW THAT IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR THESE NURSES AND DOCTOR TO HAVE CAUSED THE INFECTION OF THE CHILDREN, BECAUSE WE ARE DIGUSTED AT A CORRUPT AND EVIL ARAB GOVERNMENT AND WE ARE SICK OF SEEING THE JUSTICE THAT WE GIVE TO ALL PEOPLE, REGARDLESS OF COLOUR, BEING REFUSED TO THESE INNOCENT PEOPLE.
    Most probably the comments from the “west” originate from people who are more capable of making an objective assesment than can be found in arab society. When people will kill because of a cartoon, then there is not much hope for that society!


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About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] .


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