It’s hardly news that Libya is not the best of places. Sure, they cleaned up their act as far as WMD, so they’re back on the Bush administration’s holiday Christmas card list.
But for over two years, a Palestinian doctor and 5 Bulgarian nurses have been on Libya’s death row because of a farce of a trial, accused of intentionally infecting children with HIV.
European expert witnesses examined the children and found that most had been infected before their treatment. But the court tossed out the evidence, apparently because of a mistranslation. Nature’s report on the case explains:
the decision to throw out the report removed all scientific content from the case, leaving a series of prejudgements, and confessions extracted under torture. “It’s scandalous,” [a lawyer for the medical workers] says. “This is a complex scientific affair, and it is impossible to judge it without a scientific basis.”
The Libya 6 managed to win a retrial, but their defense team thinks this will go the same way. An expert witness told Nature: “It’s embarassing politically for Gaddafi, but there is the pressure of the parents, who absolutely need to find a scapegoat. Of course this can’t be the Libyans, so it falls on the medics.”
In an editorial, Nature writes:
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.
We can hope. But we can do more. Contact your congresscritter, or send an email to the State Department. The public affairs section of the US embassy in Libya can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read or send them that bolded sentence above and ask them to help the cause of justice.