Contrary to expectation, the trial of the five Bulgarian nurses and one Palestinian doctor for capital crimes in a Libyan court did not conclude yesterday but was continued until November 4 to allow the prosecutors to answer arguments by the defense that Libyan authorities have framed the Tripoli Six. Meanwhile in a significant development over one hundred Nobel Laureates have sent a letter to Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi of Libya protesting the exclusion of scientific evidence potentially exonerating the defendants. From Declan Butler’s blog:
In the letter, to be published online this week by Nature, 114 laureates affirm the need to ensure a fair trial, and for the appropriate authorities to permit evidence from internationally recognized AIDS experts to be used in this case. It notes that: “Strong scientific evidence is needed to establish the cause of this infection. However, independent science-based evidence from international experts has so far not been permitted in court.” (Declan Butler)
The postponement was said to be granted to allow the prosecutors to answer arguments by the defense that Libyan authorities have framed the Tripoli Six.
The Libyan defence lawyer of the five Bulgarian nurses Osman Bizanti branded as fake all the documents that state the five Bulgarian nurses are guilty with deliberately infecting some 400 Libyan children with HIV.
The fact the Libyan officers who terrorised the medics in prison had been proved innocent does not mean the nurses and doctor had not suffered from moral and psychological violence, Bizanti added.
Poor hygiene and neglect led to the infection of hundreds of Libyan children with the HIV virus, a defence lawyer said on Tuesday at the retrial of six foreign medics accused of deliberating infecting the children.
“I remind you that international scientists found that the epidemic was not through injections but through the re-use of syringes,” said Touhami Toumi, a lawyer for one of the six, Palestinian doctor Ashraf Alhajouj.
Luc Montagnier, a French doctor who first detected the HIV virus, has said it emerged in the Benghazi hospital in 1997, a year before the medics arrived. He said in testimony at their first trial the children were most probably infected through negligence and poor hygiene. (Novinite)
Confessions were extracted from the nurses under torture, a reminder that coercion is not a source of reliable information. This case has developed into a cause celebre for the international scientific community (see posts here, here, here and here). The statement of the Nobel Laureates is the latest manifestation of this worldwide concern in interational science and surely one of the most significant.
Exactly what the postponement means for the case is unknown, although there are no obvious reasons for optimism. The only good news seems to be the strong reaction of the world of science.