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The May 6th Five:

5 Bulgarian Nurses caught in bizarre Libyan nightmare

On December 19, 2006, a Libyan court convicted five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor of deliberately infecting 400 children at a hospital with HIV. The six were condemned to death, despite scientific evidence that the children contracted the virus before the medical workers arrived in Libya in 1998. The co-defendants were accused of infecting the children during a botched attempt at finding a cure. 50 of the children have died, and the rest have been treated in Europe.

The verdict has sparked outrage in Europe and the United States, and celebration throughout Libya, where the six co-defendants have been portrayed as guilty in the media – despite scientific evidence that the virus was circulating in the hospital as early as 1995, according to research journal Nature. Family members of the children cheered outside the courtroom when the verdict was announced.

The co-defendants had already spent seven years in prison, and were hoping for exoneration after the Libyan Supreme Court called for a retrial after the six were originally convicted in condemned to death last year in a trial that was considered largely unfair by the international community.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, meeting with Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ivailo Kalfin in Washington, said the United States was "very disappointed with the outcome" and urged the medical workers be freed and "allowed to go home at the earliest possible date."

Not only has the trial itself become a human rights issue, but so has the treatment of the prisoners. All six claim they were tortured, and two nurses – all the nurses are women – claim they were raped (Libyan prison officials were acquitted of the charge). The Boston-based Physicians for Human Rights have affirmed these accusations based on interviews and field evaluations. It is believed that mistreatment took place before 2004, because of the high profile nature of the case, and because the defendants have been visited by international observers since that time.

The trial has strained Libya’s relations with the West, and there will be more pressure with Bulgaria joining the European Union as of January 1, 2007. Libyan leader Moammar Ghadafi has attempted to reach a deal whereby the victims would be compensated by Bulgaria, though that has been rejected as it would be an admission of guilt on the part of the nurses.

The case puts Ghadafi in a difficult position, as there is intense popular pressure in his own country for a guilty verdict. There were clashes in Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city, when the Supreme Court initially ordered a retrial. The city is a hotbed for fundamentalist anti-Ghadafi Islamic groups, and an innocent verdict could have lead to further opposition to the government.

The case was sent immediately to the Libyan Supreme Court for appeal, but it is unknown when the court will rule. If it upholds the ruling, the case goes to the Judicial Board, which can uphold or annul it.


How does this relate to Carnival?:
During the May 2004 XXIV FECC Carnival Cities Convention held in Sofia-Pernik,
Downloadthe Bulgaria'n host and a Pernik native, President Georgi Parvanov  pressed his case to the interntional community for releasing nurses held since 1999 by Libyan authorities. Lebanon joined the FECC for the first time in 2004. The 2007 XXVII FECC Carnival City Convention will be held for the first time in an Arab country; Sousse, Tunisia. At the 2004 FECC Convention it was voted to relaunch the FECC as an organization primarily devoted to developing and promoting Carnival festivals in Europe and Mediterranean regions.
Bulgaria invited Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to visit to help resolve the issue of five Bulgarian nurses sentenced to death. The invitation was issued May 17th 2004 by Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov who has taken personal charge of Bulgaria's efforts to secure a retrial.


In June, Bulgarian Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg Gotha welcomed Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the celebrated billionaire leader of a one of the great extraordinary cultures on the rim of the Mediterranean.  In a historic first Lebanese visit  since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1966, Lebanon's Haririm, expressed support for Bulgaria's bid to free the Bulgarian nurses however he emphasized the solution of the case depended thoroughly on Libyan authorities and particularly on the country's leader Moammar Gadhafi.

"This question depends in the first place on the Libyan state, this is an issue of sovereignty," Lebanan prime minister Hariri said during a visit to Sofia, Bulgaria. "The solution depends in the first and in the last place on the Libyan leadership and personally on the head of state, Gadhafi."

Rafik Hariri and Moammar Gadhafi have known each other for many years. In 1996 Gadhafi sought to expel 15,000 Palestinians who would have sought to find room in Lebanon, Prime Minister Rafik Hariri's government at the time, made it clear it did not want them and participated in mediation with the mercurial Libyan leader.

The five Bulgarian nurses (Kristiana Malinova Valcheva, Nasya Stojcheva Nenova, Valentina Manolova Siropulo, Valya Georgieva Chervenyashka and Snezhanka Ivanova Dimitrova) and Palestinian Dr. Ashraf Ahmad Jum'a arrived in Banghazi in 1998 to work at the al-Fateh Children's Hospital.

 The motives for the death sentences were finally presented to the Bulgarian diplomats in Libya, though Bulgaria's Embassy in Tripoli which on June 6th received a 216 page response in Arabic. The Bulgarians had demanded that Libya submits immediately the verdict and its motives. Justice Minister Anton Stankov, who also heads the interdepartmental commission on the Libyan case, speculated that further legal proceedings were likely and these would be based upon different lawyers representing the parties.

The defense team for the appeal to the Libyan Supreme Court has been growing. The lawyers have till July 5, (two months following the announcement of the death verdicts.) to submit documents. The two newest lawyers are Georgi Gatev and Hari Haralampiev who joined in Tripoli their colleagues Plamen Yalnazov and Osman Bizanti. An Egyptian lawyer who is a Libyan Criminal Court specialist will also be joining the team 

"Libya has severe deficiencies in their medical system including a lack of qualified personnel and for years has recruited foreigners," said Bulgarian Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Lubomir Ivanov. "It appears these medics were selected for trial in the belief that Bulgaria is a small country incapable of defending its citizens."
17 June 2004:
Bulgarian Nurses Moved to Tripoli

with the assistance of Qaddafi Foundation.
"Like the plot line of a cheesy Cold War spy novel, the lives of five Bulgarian nurses and one Palestinian doctor -- SF Gate.com Home accused and convicted in a diabolically farcical five-year trial of intentionally infecting over 400 children with HIV as part of a CIA and Israeli intelligence plot -- now depend on the whims of Moammar Khadafy, Libya's viciously mercurial dictator with a passion for fashion.

"Nurse Valcheva's husband, Dr. Zdravko Georgiev, employed in another Libyan city by a South Korean company, raced to be by his wife's side, only to find himself arrested and charged as a co-conspirator. After more than four years in jail, Georgiev was released for "time served" on May 6 -- the day his wife received the death sentence.
Juliette Terzieff  wrote this feature story for the Sunday edition of the San Francisco Chronicle June 6, 2004

Bulgarians sentenced to death in bizarre Libyan HIV case

"Amnesty International reminds the Amnesty InternationalLibyan authorities  story by medicalnewstoday.coms
 that evidence extracted under torture must not be invoked as evidence in any legal proceedings."
Click to enlarge the photo
 Foreign Minister Solomon Passy greets the five Bulgarian nurses and Palestinian doctor in Benghazi, at the end of May and attempts to assuage fears and assure them that all will eventually be OK.  The Bulgarians were transferred to Tripoli overnight on June 17th. Mr. Passi has asked that Bulgarina MPs not stir the issue further in the media,  as the growing media swirl will not be helpful to mediation efforts.
Photo by Bulgarian Foreign Ministry
 Also in June, at a government meeting of EU member states in Luxembourg, participants said that Libya would not be allowed to participate in the Good Neighbour Policy, or to get significant financial aid from the union, unless it resolved certain disputes with current and future members of the union.

Among the issues listed was the case of the Bulgarian nurses, and that of compensation for the 150 victims of the 1986 of the 1986 bombing by Libyan agents of the La Belle night club in Germany.

Bulgaria used to send more than 20,000 medics to Libya in the nineties, but the number has dropped significantly following the intimidating repercussions of the blatant scapegoating HIV-trial/death sentence against five Bulgarian nurses and Palestinian doctor working in the port City of Benghazi.

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Lebanon & Bulgaria by government.bg
The political relations between our two countries are characterized by a spirit of friendship, they have been strong for years, stressed the Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri. In his opinion, the economic ties could develop and reach a higher level.

During the plenary talks the Bulgarian delegation showed interest to ways to increase the bilateral trade. The question of establishment of joint ventures in this country to operate in the textile and food industries, agriculture, tourism, tourism, hoteliery and restaurant business was also discussed. The two delegations talked on the opportunities for further encouragement of the direct contacts between business partners and between the chambers of commerce of the two countries as well as on the opportunities for boosting the volume of the Lebanese investments in this country. Bulgaria will also seek Lebanoní s assistance in attracting investments from the Persian Gulf region. There was no immediate answer offered by Bulgarian authorities to Lebanon's call for easing visa restrictions.
"If one is looking for an example of how a totalitarian state can reform itself, it is to Bulgaria, not Libya, that one should look."
Thomas A. Dine is president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in a Boston Globe Op-Ed.
  Bulgaria invites Gadhafi to talk

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