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Times critiques Libya’s deadly nonsense


Editorial rejects political fantasy blaming Bulgarians for HIV positive babies

Sets itself a good example with brief appearance of scientific reasoning to save lives

The Libyan HIV∫AIDS insanity continues. The five Bulgarian nurses and Palestinian doctor are still seriously in danger of execution in Libya because they are held responsible for spreading HIV among hundreds of babies in the hospital they worked in.

The New York Times editorial board comes to their defense very strongly today (Sat Oct 14) in every way they know of, except of course the one basis that really makes the story worthy of being called a “medical-legal travesty” of reason and justice, which is that HIV is not in fact an instrument of death, contrary to the claims of a paradigm which is scotched in numberless ways in the literature including a number of recent mainstream papers which, as we have pointed out, remove the main pillars of the paradigm.

In other words, the main authorities of the belief in HIV∫AIDS themselves have quietly contradicted in mainstream scientific papers the platform they stand on, and if the New York Times editorial writer would continue applying his/her mind to the problem in Libya a little longer and widen his/her focus to the paradigm itself, the editorial position could be even more enlightened.

But the New York Times has no inkling of this, of course, and its defense of the Bulgarian nurses rests on the obvious falsity of the Libyan claims even according to the analysis of Luc Montagnier, who says that the infections emerged before the accused started working at the hospital and continued to spread after they were thrown in jail.

Needless to say the Times editorialist only has to do a little more reading of what “one of the world’s greatest experts on H.I.V., Dr. Luc Montagnier” has said about the topic of HIV∫AIDS to discover that the relatively civilized (relative to his Stateside confreres in HIV∫AIDS) Montagnier believes that HIV is not sufficient to cause AIDS anyway and that nutritional factors are crucial.

Maybe the editorial board should think some more about the situation and apply their new interest in science to the fundamental HIV∫AIDS belief they support in their news columns with the incessant refrain “HIV, the virus that causes AIDS”, as included in this very editorial.

Otherwise, when the world finally comes to its senses about this failed paradigm, which still has no genuine support in the literature after 22 years, they will find themselves partly responsible for these six deaths if God forbid they happen as well as innumerable other ones among AIDS patients who are given ARVs.

October 14, 2006

Editorial

A Medical-Legal Travesty in Libya

Five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor are facing the death penalty in Libya based on preposterous charges that they deliberately infected hundreds of children with H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS. This looming miscarriage of justice demands a strong warning to the Libyan leader, Muammar el-Qaddafi, that his efforts to join the ranks of peaceable nations will suffer if the medical workers are made the scapegoats for the failure of Libya’s own health system.

The doctor and nurses, who had been working at a hospital in Benghazi, were arrested in 1999. They confessed under torture, according to human rights organizations, but later protested their innocence. The charges that they deliberately infected more than 400 children were clearly bogus.

One of the world’s greatest experts on H.I.V., Dr. Luc Montagnier, testified that the real cause of the infections was poor hygienic practices at the hospital. The infections emerged before the accused started working at the hospital and continued to spread after they were thrown in jail.

It seems clear that the government wanted to deflect public outrage by accusing foreigners of committing a horrific crime — rather than acknowledging the negligence of Libya’s health system.

The six medical workers were convicted and sentenced to death in 2004, while nine Libyans who worked at the same hospital were acquitted. The convictions were overturned by the Libyan Supreme Court, which ordered a retrial. Defense attorneys fear the same outcome this time. The attorneys are calling for another independent scientific assessment of the case because the evidence offered by Dr. Montagnier and an Italian scientist was tossed out by the courts.

Thus far the United States and European nations have focused on setting up an international fund to care for victims of the tragedy and to upgrade equipment at the hospital — in hopes that will be enough to get the medical workers set free. Libya is demanding substantial compensation as well, analogous to what it paid to families of the victims of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.

That seems a grotesque overreach given that the nurses and doctors are the victims here. The White House holds Libya up as a model for other nations to follow in renouncing weapons of mass destruction. Libya must also be judged by how it respects human rights and the rule of law.

Tough stuff, right on the mark. When will they apply the same mind set to HIV∫AIDS itself?

Or is that too much to hope for, that the world’s greatest newspaper free itself of the shackles of censorship that Dr Anthony Fauci of NIAID has imposed on the media for 22 years?

Here is a Nature/Reuters report from 20 Sept:

(show)

Nature

Published online: 20 September 2006; | doi:10.1038/443254b

Lawyers call for science to clear AIDS nurses in Libya

International pressure needed to save health workers from death penalty.

Declan Butler

Lawyers defending six medical workers who risk execution by firing squad in Libya have called for the international scientific community to support a bid to prove the medics’ innocence. The six are charged with deliberately infecting more than 400 children with HIV at the al-Fateh Hospital in Benghazi in 1998, so far causing the deaths of at least 40 of them.

On 28 August, when the prosecution was scheduled to close its case, the Libyan prosecutor called for the five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor to be sentenced to death. Attorneys from Lawyers Without Borders, who are handling the defence of the six, have responded by calling for the international community to request that the court order an independent scientific assessment, by international AIDS experts, of how the children became infected.

Five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor stand accused of infecting hundreds of children with HIV.

L. LARBI/REUTERS

The medics were condemned to death in May 2004, but the Supreme Court quashed their convictions last December, following international protests that the first trial had been unfair. It ordered a retrial, which has run intermittently since 11 May at the Criminal Court of Benghazi, based in Tripoli. A verdict is expected within weeks.

But the scientific community has so far shown relatively little interest in the case, says Emmanuel Altit, a member of the Paris bar and a volunteer with Lawyers Without Borders, who has in the past defended inmates at Guantanamo Bay. “We have knocked on a lot of doors, but we have not had much help; we hope this will change.”

It’s scandalous. This is a complex affair, and it is impossible to judge it without a scientific basis.

One reason for the lack of interest, he says, is the widespread notion that the trial is a sideshow, and that the “real decisions” will be made by diplomats (see Libya’s travesty). Altit argues that diplomacy has so far failed to secure results, and that the medics’ release will only be secured by using scientific evidence to fight the case in the Tripoli courtroom. He hopes that exposing the “emptiness” of the prosecution case will ramp up enough international pressure to force governments to take action.

At present, the case has been sidelined by broader geopolitical interests in the opening of oil-rich Libya to international relations, says Antoine Alexiev, another defence lawyer on the case. The United States decided in May to re-establish diplomatic relations with Libya. And Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, has been given red-carpet treatment at the European Union’s headquarters in Brussels — without mention of the medics’ situation.

First report

During the first trial, the Libyan government did ask Luc Montagnier, whose group at the Pasteur Institute in Paris discovered HIV, and Vittorio Colizzi, an AIDS researcher at Rome’s Tor Vergata University, to examine the scientific evidence. The researchers carried out a genetic analysis of viruses from the infected children, and concluded that many of them were infected long before the medics set foot in Libya in March 1998. Many of the children were also infected with hepatitis B and C, suggesting that the infections were spread by poor hospital hygiene. The infections were caused by subtypes of A/G HIV-1 — a recombinant strain common in central and west Africa, known to be highly infectious.

But the court threw out the report, arguing that an investigation by Libyan doctors had reached the opposite conclusion. Montagnier believes the judgement was based at least partly on mistranslation from English to Arabic of the term ‘recombinant’ — instead of referring to natural recombination of wild viruses, as intended, it was interpreted to mean genetically modified, implying human manipulation.

According to Alexiev, 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,” he says. “This is a complex scientific affair, and it is impossible to judge it without a scientific basis.”

Montagnier, whose efforts helped secure a retrial in the first place, says he too is upset by how events in Tripoli are progressing. “It’s a rerun of the first trial,” he says. “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.”

The defence is scheduled to plead on 21 September, but Altit is not convinced that the science will be fairly heard. All attempts by the defence to present its arguments have been “systematically blocked”, he claims, for example by switching the schedule. “The trial should be fair and equitable; until now it has been anything but.”

Legally, the Montagnier/Colizzi report cannot be reinstated after having been thrown out, so the defence is pinning its hopes on persuading the court to appoint an independent science panel to produce a new report. The Tripoli court has resisted all such calls, says Alexiev. “We are hitting a wall, and that is unlikely to change before the end of this trial.”

The defence is therefore resigned to probably losing the current trial, he says, and is setting its sights on the six’s last chance: a final appeal in the Supreme Court, which could convene immediately after the Tripoli verdict, currently expected in November. “We need to convince the Supreme Court to nominate that international scientific assessment,” he says.

“If international pressure isn’t stronger before the appeal, the risk is large that they will be condemned to death,” predicts Michel Taube, co-founder of Together Against the Death Penalty, a French non-governmental organization. “To avoid that outcome, diplomacy is not enough. We need international mobilization.”

Only a combined pressure from lawyers and scientists as well as politicians will make a difference, agrees Altit. If the Supreme Court refuses a scientific assessment, then the international community will be able to ask: “What has it got to hide?” he says. “And if it agrees to a scientific investigation, then we will win.”

2 Responses to “Times critiques Libya’s deadly nonsense”

  1. Martin Kessler Says:

    Well, well, Qadaffi is proving once again that he’s a real tyrant. It’s too bad he isn’t as smart as Thado Mbeki – because if that were so, this abominable situation would never have occurred.

  2. Dan Says:

    It all seems so very selective.

    Why is this “AIDS”-related situation more ludicrous, hysterical or macabre than the idea that the people of Africa are dying from a sexually-transmitted “pandemic” (and are in dire need of “life-saving” drugs)?

    I wonder how the NY Times is able to make the judgement that what’s happening in Libya is somehow too incredulous or preposterous to be believable? The Times has no trouble whatsoever with the idea that Africans far and wide are able to screw themselves and each other to death. Both situations stretch believability to the breaking point. Why is only one of these seen for what it is?

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