Saturday, 31 March 2007
Bulgarian nurses' death penalty clash strands ship in Malt
Bulgarian nurses' death penalty clash strands ship in Malta ---- Libya
blocked access to cargo ship following Bulgarian boycott
The international clash following a Libyan courts shocking death sentence
to Bulgarian nurses accused of intentionally infecting 400 children with
HIV, has left a Bulgarian cargo ship stranded in the Grand Harbour.
The Bulgarian ship 'Smolyan' was on its way to Tripoli, the Libyan
capital, with a cargo of metal rods, when the ship captain was informed
that Libyan authorities will not be allowing the ship to enter the Libyan
ports. The Libyan governments move comes weeks after a number of Bulgarian
shipping organisations, led by the Bulgarian Association of Ships Brokers
and Agents (BASBA), "decided to boycott Libyan ships and cargoes...[and
to] refuse to serve ships flying Libyan flag and represent Libyan
principals on international freight market," as indicated by a letter sent
by the same association.
The BASBA boycott is part of an international initiative condemning the
Libyan court's decision, following a 7-year trial, that ended by
condemming the 5 Bulgarion nurses and a Palestinian doctor to death, for
allegedly infecting over 400 children with HIV in a Benghazi hospital.
Even the EU has condemned the sentence.
Bulgarian government's orders
On Thursday, the Bulgarian ship scheduled to unload in the Tripoli port,
entered Maltese waters, following instructions from the Bulgarian
government. "The diversion was a result of a letter sent by the consular
department at the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry. The letter announced that
the Bulgarian embassy in Libya could not ensure the ships unobstracted
entry into the Libyan port" captain Hristo Donev, the director general of
the ships company 'Navigation Maritime Bulgare', told the FOCUS
Throughout Friday, the Bulgarian ship laid moored at Laboratory Wharf,
Corradino and was expected to unload its cargo of metal rods on quay, to
be later reloaded on another ship that would then transport the cargo to
its original destination. But the 1993 built, 'Smolyan', is expected to
remain in Malta at least until Sunday, due to the 'Regatta' boat racing
activities to be held on Saturday (a Maltese national holiday), sources at
the harbour told maltastar.com.
HIV spread by lack of hygiene, experts say
In the meantime, the Bulgarian government, who is insisting that the 5
nurses are innocent, has formally asked Libya to explain why it is
stopping Bulgarian ships from entering its ports.
Libyan courts accused the six medical workers of intentionally infecting
over 400 children with HIV, 40 of whom died, to find a cure to the AIDS
disease. But the nurses, backed by numerous experts and international
organisations, are maintaining innocence. A number of experts, including
Professor Luk Montanie, who discovered the HIV virus, testified that the
children were infected due to poor hygiene conditions in the hospital.
Moreover, the defence lawyers also gave proof that the children were
infected before the nurses arrived in Libya.
But last December, the court surprised the world by putting the nurses,
and the Palestinian medic, to death row.
The court case was also politically charged, when the Libyan Leader
Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, accused the health workers of acting on orders
from the CIA and the Israeli secret service, Mossad, an allegation which
was later withdrawn.
Last January, Gaddafi linked the nurses' death sentence to the lifetime
imprisonment of Abdelbaset Al Megrahi, the Libyan accused with the
Lockerbie bombing in Scotland. Bulgarian newspapers quoted the Libyan
leader saying "Libya called for Al Megrahi's freedom the imprisonment of
Al Megrahi meant that the Bulgarian nurses were not going to be freed
George Michael in aid of nurses' campaign
The maritime dispute comes on the same days as an international coalition
for the freedom of the Bulgarian nurses started meeting in Paris, France.
The coalition, 'You are not alone' aims to bring widespread international
support for the nurses' freedom, through petitions, international
conferences, and other events. British singer George Michael is the first
international celebrity to support the coalition. He will be giving a
conference in aid of the nurses' freedom campaign in Bulgaria, next May.
And in a bid to help the nurses gain their freedom, a Bulgarian civil
rights group nominated them to become candidates for the upcoming European
Parliament elections in Bulgaria, following the country's EU membership
last January. But the Bulgarian parliament did not accept the nomination.
"The populist statements that the nurses' death sentences could be changed
because of the nomination were inhumane the proposal for the nomination
harmed Bulgarias position that the nurses were innocent" Bulgarian MPs
argued, as quoted by the Sophia Echo news website.
(source: Malta Star)