INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Press Reaction: Delay in Libyan Case Evokes Mixed

Published: Fri 18 Nov 2005 12:06 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 SOFIA 001942
SIPDIS
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PHUM PINR PGOV LY BU
SUBJECT: PRESS REACTION: DELAY IN LIBYAN CASE EVOKES MIXED
REACTION IN BULGARIA
1. (U) SUMMARY: The November 15 decision by the Libyan
Supreme Court to postpone judgment on the case of five
Bulgarian medics until January 31st 2006, has provoked a
mixed reaction in Bulgaria. Government leaders, while
relieved at having averted confirmation of the death
sentences, have voiced concerns that the new delay will
prolong the suffering of the five innocent nurses.
Bulgarian officials note that the postponement allows for
more time to continue efforts at securing the medics'
release. Bulgarian media coverage on the decision has been
extensive, including widespread coverage of the clashes
between angry Libyans and riot police outside the courtroom
in Tripoli. Some editorials are expressing hope that the
West will help to work out a behind-the-scene deal for the
Bulgarian medics' release. END SUMMARY.
PURVANOV: DECISION ONLY PROLONGS NURSES' FATE
2. (U) Bulgarian politicians were swift to react to the
Libyan court's decision. President Purvanov said in a
statement that the court was expected to deliver the only
possible decision---an acquittal. "A thorough analysis of
the evidence in the case, made by European, Bulgarian and
Arab legal experts, proves that the evidence contains
nothing to confirm the guilt of the Bulgarian medics,"
remarked the President. Purvanov added the "Libyan Supreme
Court decision is prolonging the drama of the innocent
Bulgarian medics." He expressed hope that "this
postponement would be the last and that a fair resolution
will be achieved." The President thanked Bulgaria's friends
and partners for their support, and said that "efforts
should continue to reach an agreement with the Libyan
authorities that would allow that innocent nurses return
back home". The media highlighted Purvanov's personal
message to the five nurses, assuring them that "Bulgaria
will not spare any effort to ensure a favorable outcome of
this painful trial."
BULGARIA STEADFAST IN ITS POSITION
3. (U) The Bulgarian government echoed Purvanov's message
and said the relevant institutions would continue to press
for a favorable resolution to the case. Foreign Ministry
spokesman Dimitar Tsanchev said Bulgaria hoped the delay
would give the court an opportunity to further consider the
indisputable evidence of the nurses' innocence. Like
Purvanov, Tsanchev underscored the government's growing
concern for the nurses' welfare, saying that the
postponement tested the limits of the nurses' physical and
emotional endurance. Tsanchev maintained that there would
be no change in Bulgaria's official position of refusing to
accept Libyan demands for payment in exchange for the
nurses' release. "Any payments, compensations or other
forms that imply acknowledgement of guilt are unacceptable
for Bulgaria," Tsanchev added. According to the spokesman,
"Bulgarian authorities will continue to work towards
securing a maximum level of international support for the
medics."
4. (U) Other politicians also expressed concern over the
nurses' current health. Former President and current
Chairman of the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) party Petar
Stoyanov said Bulgaria should demand a change in the
conditions under which the nurses are being held, which he
described as "appalling." Rather than being kept in
custody, Stoyanov argued that the nurses should be released
on bail. Stoyanov sees the nurses release on bail as a key
step that could relieve some of the pressure built up around
the case.
HIV CASE PART OF A "COMPLEX LIBYAN PUZZLE"
5. (U) The ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) expressed
its disappointment and alarm with the decision. "The
Bulgarian medics are becoming hostages and part of the
complex Libyan puzzle, they are means which Libya is using
to solve its domestic and foreign policy problems," BSP
spokesman Angel Naidenov said. "The adjournment of the case
allows the Libyan regime to continue the political haggling
with the international community and Bulgaria in a bid to
derive certain economic and political dividends from the
fate of the Bulgarian medics," said MP Konstantin Dimitrov
from the center-right Democrats for Strong Bulgaria. "At
the same time, Bulgaria is getting an extra chance to
broaden international support, including through joint
action between Sofia, Brussels and Washington," Dimitrov
added. Defense lawyers of the nurses saw the delay as a
positive sign, saying new appeals meant new chances for the
defense to prove the medics' innocence.
EDITORIALS NOTE `PROLONGED AGONY' BUT ALSO HOPE
6. (U) The court's decision received widespread media
coverage with the clashes between the angered relatives of
the infected children and police figuring prominently in the
headlines. Bulgaria's largest circulation daily Trud
published a photo of one of the parents of Libyan children
protesting outside the court and quoting a mother as calling
"on Al Qaeda to launch revenge against the Bulgarians."
Another parent was quoted by "Trud" as saying that he "will
become a soldier of Al Qaeda and kidnap any Bulgarian,
working in Libya."
7. (U) Some editorials were optimistic that a delay in the
court's decision would lead to the nurses' release. An
editorial in "24 Chasa" daily said that even though the next
76 days will be painful for the nurses and Bulgarian
society, the delay allowed extra time for vigorous efforts
to secure the nurses' release. An editorial in "Standart"
daily says that "to expect an acquittal for the nurses and
the Palestinian doctor is now out of the question.
Hopefully, the West could pay for the nurses' release
because the U.S., UK and France negotiated with Tripoli on
the Lockerbie, La Belle and UTA plane. The truth no longer
matter, interests do," Standart said.
BEYRLE
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