The Corner

Those Five Nurses in Libya

“I am happy with the verdict, which shows the impartiality of the Libyan justice system,” so spoke Abullah Moghrabi, lawyer for the families of the infected LIbyans. “Libyan justice system” is an oxymoron. The “impartial” conviction seems surreal given the fact that genetic analysis of the HIV virus in the infected children suggested it antedated the arrival of the medical personnel in question into Libya.

Yet  I was surprised how vehemently Libyans I talked with this Spring, both in Libya and in DC,  insisted that the nurses were culpable and should be severely punished, in part in the belief that HIV could only exist among foreigners, who by the logic of the Green Book are always out to get the Great Leader and undermine the revolution. In addition, the conviction of the Palestinian doctor was seen as proof of an “impartiality” in the sense that an Arab also would suffer the same fate as Europeans.

If we can explain to them that executions would stop liberalization with the U.S., I think the sentenced could all be saved. Despite the fact that the Bulgarians are European, and the Europeans are protesting, I don’t think the Libyans believe the Europeans would ever endanger their growing commerce over a simple matter of humanitarian principle.

As a side note, this April while recovering from an emergency operation for a  perforated appendix in a Tripoli Red Crescent clinic, I couldn’t help but stare at every IV needle that was inserted–as the government channel blared pictures of the imprisoned nurses and the infected children. Another note: every patient heading into surgery must first have a government certified HIV test–and the rumors about what awaits those who test positive are, well…”unfounded”?


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