Libya Releases Doctor and Nurses

Six medical workers held in Libya since 1999 on preposterous charges have been released in exchange for diplomatic concessions.

Five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor who had been imprisoned for 8 1/2 years in Libya arrived to a hero’s welcome Tuesday after being released from life sentences for allegedly contaminating children with the AIDS virus.

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Libya had accused the six of deliberately infecting more than 400 Libyan children with HIV. Fifty of the children died. The medics, jailed since 1999, deny infecting the children and say their confessions were extracted under torture. The six originally had been sentenced to death, but that was later commuted to life in prison.

The deal for the medics’ release included measures to improve the medical care of children with AIDS in Libya, the French presidential palace said, without giving details. Libya’s foreign minister said that Libya and the European Union agreed to develop a “full partnership” after the release of the medical workers, with the Europeans promising a package of aid to develop Libyan hospitals and other infrastructure.

It seems rather bizarre to suddenly pretend that Libya is a part of the civilized world after the release of these people they had tortured and held unjustly for nearly a decade but, alas, that’s the nature of international relations.

It’s quite interesting that dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi is not mentioned at all in the story, given that this obviously happened under his orders. There’s no telling how much harm he did to his own country, let alone the developing world more generally, by scaring off medical workers who might otherwise have volunteered to provide services to those with HIV and other diseases.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.