Sofia'd Not Respond to Libyan Calls of Indemnification

Novinite Insider » INTERVIEW | November 15, 2005, Tuesday // 00:00

Egyptian lawyer Emmanuel Altit is part of the defence team of the five Bulgarian nurses in Libya. He works in Paris at the international organization Lawyers without Borders.

Emmanuel Altit talked to Egyptian news agency MENA's reporter Stephane Juffa just before his departure for the November 15 appeals trial in Tripoli. The interview with Altit was kindly submitted to Sofia News Agency for publication.


Q: Are you optimistic about the result of the hearing at the Supreme Court on November 15?

A: As you know, everything is possible: confirmation of the death sentences, revocation of the verdicts or return of the case for re-trial at first instance. Personally I think that now we could be far less pessimistic now than in the past because the forces have changed. I'm talking about forces because everything is a matter of relations between those forces.

In these conditions, it is important for the defence of the Bulgarian medics to speak in one voice and to obey to a common strategy, because if there is only a hint of division - which would be a sign of fragility - it would pay back badly.

Since we have been involved in the case, for ten months, we have worked hard to contribute for a change in the forces and, in my view, we have been successful.

In our work as lawyers in two Libyan trials, we have obtained a sensitive ear to the public opinion through mass media, as well as personal opinions of people engaged in the protection of human rights. We have also stirred the attention of politicians, especially parliamentarians.

We have organised protests - in front of the Libyan Embassy in Paris 12 December 2004, and also in Paris and Brussels in the last few days.

The sensibility of politicians of leading countries in the world such as US President George W. Bush, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and the UN Secretary General Annan, has grown.

The European institutions have mobilized their forces in defense of the Bulgarian nurses. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has adopted a unified declaration urging Libya to free the medics and Libyan authorities to respect the right of defense and grant entry visas to PACE observers.

Q: In your opinion, what kind of maneuvers could undertake each of the parties now?

A: This global strategy I was talking about has popularized the medics' case and eventually changed the balance of forces - on our behalf. On this background, Libyan authorities are growing more and more uncomfortable. Our margin of maneuver is constantly enlarging, while Libyan authorities feel increasingly pressed to reach an agreement over the nurses, but for a certain "prize".

It is high time to find a solution that would allow Libyan authorities to save face. It is in the interest of everybody to put forward the case for discussion. Nobody has won refusing to face the reality.

Q: Mr Altit, how do you interpret the contradictory declarations coming from Libya?

A: It is all the time the old story back: when you want to obtain something, you'd better get two. For the Libyans it's been always of prime concern to gain as much as possible to exchange the medics.

One of the reasons that Libyan authorities keep the medics imprisoned is that they want to conceal the responsibility concerning the spread of AIDS and also to have more gears to talk into a higher price. As you see, they are striving to get as much as possible: hundreds of millions of dollars, a confession of responsibility, a transfer back to Libya of a Libyan convict accused of the Lockerbie tragedy .

They are completely aware they'd not gain everything - that is why they try to make it out with as much as possible. During negotiations you do not have to enter on the terrain of the opponent, but rather stick to yours.

That is why many believe Bulgarian authorities should not respond to such proposals that seem to be like a trap and stick to their own terrain: talk about human rights, disrespect for the right of defense, the tortures, the questionable way of arrest of the medics, disrespect for international conventions, etc.

Q: What do you think of the declaration made by the son of Muammar Qaddafi - Saif al-Islam?

A: It's emblematic that the declarations of Saif al-Islam were made actually on our terrain. In fact, his declarations have always been positive and encouraging. The admittance that the physicians were tortured has shown that the case is hollow. And this has made us think that on November 15 the Supreme Court will not be able to confirm the death sentences.

If we remain sustainable in our strategy, we could be quite optimistic about the outcome of the trial, as is the wish the entire civilized world.

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