TRIPOLI (AFP) – Libya’s leader Moamer Khadafi has rejected calls for the release of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor sentenced to death for infecting children with AIDS.
“Those who commit a crime must accept the consequences,” he said Friday at a gathering of Arab and Western diplomats, as well as media and religious dignitaries, held to mark the beginning of Muslim festivities as well as the Christian end of year.
Stressing “the independence of the Libyan judicial system”, he rejected “Western intervention and pressure in this affair.”
This month’s verdict of death by firing squad caused an international outcry, especially in Europe.
The six foreign medics were all found guilty of intentionally injecting the HIV virus that can cause AIDS into more than 400 children at a hospital in the northern coastal city of Benghazi.
In a statement earlier in the day, the foreign ministry had accused the West of pressuring Tripoli to quash “What European countries, the European Union and NATO said showed a lack of disrespect for the judicial systems of other countries.”
It accused these parties of working “towards making an independent state, Libya, quash a verdict handed down by a competent tribunal, contrary to the laws of this country”.
The ministry also said the death sentences could be revised after an appeal to the supreme court.
Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ivaylo Kalfin confirmed in Sofia that Libya had lodged a protest.
“A note we received yesterday (Thursday) indicates that the Libyan justice system is independent and evokes a certain conflict of civilisations,” Kalfin told a news conference.
A Tripoli foreign ministry memorandum, reprinted on Friday by the Libyan state news agency JANA and read out on Bulgarian national radio, insisted that “the political stance expressed by the Bulgarian government, the EU countries and others is a clear deviation from certain values that is likely to trigger wars and conflicts and spark hostilities among religions and civilisations”.
Kalfin has summoned Libya’s charge d’affaires in Sofia Taher ben Shaban over the note.
“I declared that Bulgaria has proven its ethnic and religious tolerance” and cannot in any way “be accused of triggering ethnic and religious conflicts … Such qualifications are unacceptable,” he added.
“The Bulgarian reaction is absolutely justified,” Kalfin said.
A Tripoli court handed down the death sentence on December 19 after a retrial of the so-called Benghazi Six, who have been in custody for the past seven years. Their first trial also resulted in a death sentence.
On December 20, Bulgarian leaders wrote to EU heads of state, to NATO members, to the Council of Europe and to the United Nations asking them to help Sofia arrange the prisoners’ release.
The EU and the scientific community had argued that hygiene at the Benghazi hospital was poor before the accused started work there, leading the children to be infected through used and unsterilized instruments.