To endorse the following appeal please send an e-mail directly to Darwin For any further info please visit www.darwinweb.it Rt. Hon. Massimo D’Alema MP As doctors and researchers we are highly concerned about the unfolding of events at the Libyan trial of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor who are awaiting their sentence having been in prison since 1999 with the allegation of deliberately having infected more than 400 children at the Al Fatah Hospital in Bengasi. Amnesty International has reported that the six detainees confessed their alleged crime – reportedly pursued in cooperation with foreign secret services (amongst others, the Cia and the Mossad) in order to unsettle the Social Republic of Libya - under harsh interrogation and torture. A two-year investigation carried out by two distinguished colleagues, Luc Montagnier, who discovered the Hiv virus at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, and Vittorio Colizzi from the University Tor Vergata in Rome, has recognized their innocence beyond any reasonable doubt and has highlighted the following crucial elements: - The defendants started working at the hospital well after the first cases of infection and the epidemic continued after their arrest. - The Hiv strain, isolated in Libyan children, is typical of Central and Western Africa and it is therefore likely that it was brought into the country by an Hiv-positive immigrant or even more probably by an Hiv positive immigrant woman who delivered her baby at the Bengasi hospital. - It is plausible that the Hiv virus has spread amongst other little patients because of the hospital’s poor standards of hygiene: the detection of other viruses (hepatitis B and C) indicates a repeated exposure to infected material probably due to the use of non-sterilized syringes, as stated also by the World Health Organization after two fact-finding missions. Nonetheless, the Libyan Court rejected the report and in May 2004 the six defendants were sentenced to death by firing squad. The conviction was then overruled and a new trial was set up, with a final verdict expected by the end of November. Unfortunately, the way this case has been handled by the Libyan authorities does not bode well for the accused. If the death sentence is to be confirmed, as the defence team fears, the last hope rests with the Supreme Court. In order to save the accused from execution and have them released, it is necessary to exert an even stronger and more efficient diplomatic pressure than what has been done by the international community so far. As doctors and researcher we strongly call for the Government of Tripoli and the Supreme Court to listen to the voice of the scientific world and we urge them to set up a scientific committee willing to re-examine the available data. Not only would this prove the innocence of the nurses and the doctor, but it would also help avoid similar nosocomial infections which will always be a threat as long as the issue of hygienic conditions in hospitals is obscured by unlikely bioterrorist hypothesis. As citizens who care for the lives of six innocent people and believe in the value of politics, we ask the Italian government and its Foreign Minister in particular, to take all necessary measures for a just resolution of this case before it is too late.