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Libya slams Bulgaria’s 'betrayal'

Libya will seek support from the Arab League, the African Union and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference in the row over Bulgaria’s “betrayal” in pardoning the six medics jailed in the AIDS case.
By Afaf Geblawi | None, Tripoli
UPDATED ON JUL 30, 2007 03:48 AM IST

Libya will seek support from the Arab League, the African Union and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference in the row over Bulgaria’s “betrayal” in pardoning the six medics jailed in the AIDS case.

Libyan Foreign Minister Abdel Rahman Shalgham on Saturday denounced as a “betrayal” and illegal the pardon issued by Bulgaria’s president to the six, who were transferred to Bulgaria from Libya only last Tuesday.

“The detainees should have been detained upon their arrival (in Sofia), and not freed in this celebratory and illegal manner,” Shalgham said.

Prime Minister Baghdadi Mahmudi told the reporters that Bulgaria’s actions had violated the legal procedures regarding extradition, as set out in international law and in a 1984 agreement between the two countries.

“We followed the procedure -- it is Bulgaria that betrayed us,” Mahmudi said. Shalgham meanwhile criticised European countries for “joining forces behind the criminals... before applauding their liberation.” He denounced the “strong European pressure” exerted on Libya.

He also attacked “the humanitarian and international organisations who, instead of criticising the liberation of the criminals, welcomed and greeted this step.” Libya has sent fellow Arab League members a memorandum calling for the group to adopt a common stand on the affair at a meeting of representatives on Monday, said the prime minister. Tripoli will also seek support from the African Union and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, Mahmudi added.

Held in Libya since 1999, the five Bulgarian nurses and one Palestinian doctor with Bulgarian citizenship were sentenced to death after being convicted of deliberately infecting 438 Libyan children with the AIDS-causing HIV virus. Fifty-six of the children later died.

Libya allowed them to return on Tuesday to Bulgaria, where they had been due to serve life terms in prison, but instead the six were pardoned.

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