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Cablegate: Bulgaria Reacts with Restraint to Libyan Death Sentences,

VZCZCXRO0742
OO RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHSF #0846/01 1931413
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 121413Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY SOFIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3969
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 SOFIA 000846

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EUR/NCE MNORDBERG

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM LY BU
SUBJECT: BULGARIA REACTS WITH RESTRAINT TO LIBYAN DEATH SENTENCES,
URGES SWIFT REVIEW


SOFIA 00000846 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Bulgarian officials reacted with restraint to the
Libyan Supreme Court decision to uphold the death sentences of the
five Bulgarian nurses and Palestinian doctor accused of deliberately
infecting Libyan children with HIV. Both the President and the
Prime Minister noted that the ruling was expected and urged swift
action by Libya's Higher Judicial Council to allow the medics to
come home. The two said Bulgaria will continue to work jointly with
the EU and other foreign partners to reach a favorable solution.
Politicians of all stripes said that while they were disappointed by
the court's verdict, they pinned their hopes on a positive decision
by the Judicial Council. Partly as a result of government urging,
the larger Bulgarian media outlets were relatively restrained in
their reaction when compared to the last go-around seven months ago.
"Sega," one of the smaller dailies, called the trial a "a legal
farce" and note that eight years of silent diplomacy by Sofia and
its international partners have so far failed to bring results. END
SUMMARY

PRESIDENT, PM HOPE JUDICIAL COUNCIL WILL END AGONY

2. (U) President Georgi Purvanov said, "Bulgaria expects and insists
on a swift summoning of Libya's High Judicial Council for a final
conclusion of the Bulgarian nurses' case." Parvanov thanked
Bulgaria's foreign partners for their support, including the efforts
to achieve a fair settlement for release of the Bulgarian medical
workers and to find a sustainable solution to the plight of the
Libyan HIV-infected children. "We will continue our efforts,
together with our European and other partners, towards achievement
of a favorable decision by the High Judicial Council," said
Parvanov.

3. (U) PM Sergei Stanishev echoed the President, saying the court
ruling was "expected, given the course of the trial so far." He
reaffirmed Bulgaria's position that the medics were innocent, and
noted that this position has been supported by serious evidence.
The PM said the expected meeting of the Libyan Supreme Judicial
Council July 16 was a positive development that would opening the
way for a political solution of the case and "put an end to this
agony." The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement
Bulgaria expected a swift summoning of Libya's High Judicial Council
and final resolution of the case. "We are prepared to react in the
coming days depending on the situation's development," the statement
said.

POLITICAL SOLUTION EXPECTED TO END CRISIS

4. (SBU) MPs from all parties said in their public statement that
while they were disappointed by the confirmation of the death
sentQces, they hoped for a favorable decision of the Higher
Judicial Council. The parliamentary group of the ruling Socialist
Party said Bulgaria hoped the nurses and the Palestinian doctor
would be pardoned by the High Judicial Council with no delays. But
in private conversations, some MPs appeared more pessimistic, noting
that "while a resolution on the case seemed closer that ever,
Qadhafi is unpredictable."

5. (U) Center-right MP Konstantin Dimitrov said publicly that
Libya's handling of the case amounted to political blackmail, and
urged the government to disclose details about Bulgaria's
participation in the international fund set up to help the Libyan
children. Extreme nationalist Volen Siderov again floated his
bizarre idea to arrest five Libyans in Bulgaria and exchange them
for the nurses. He blasted the government for not taking a tougher
stand, saying that both Bulgaria and the EU should have frozen
economic ties with Libya long ago. Bulgaria's 18 members of the
European Parliament issued a letter to the European Commission
calling for a revision of the EU policy in regard to Libya "if no
positive solution is found in the next few days."

6. (U) Not surprisingly, the bluntest comment came from populist
Sofia Mayor Boiko Borissov. "They (the Libyans) continue to make
mockery of us and of the fate of these women. This is a disgrace,"
he said, calling for increased pressure on Libya. "There should be
stronger pressure on Libya, every second, at every level, from
everywhere," said Borissov.

PRESS RELATIVELY RESTRAINED, HIGHLIGHTS NURSES' INNOCENCE

7. (U) The medics' death sentences made front-page headlines in the
Bulgarian press, but the two largest-circualtion dailies - which
also happen to have the closest relations with the government - were
uncharacteristically restrained. However, some smaller outlets used
the occasion to take pot shots at the Libyans and the GOB. Under
the headline: "Innocent but With the Stigma 'Guilty' for Life," Sega
Daily commented: "Now they are trying to placate us by saying that
the medics will return to Bulgaria because somebody in Tripoli will
show the mercy to get rid of them. They are supposed to be sent
back under the explicit condition that we will keep them in prison

SOFIA 00000846 002.2 OF 002


instead of Libya. This is the price Bulgaria has to pay for their
lives. Bulgaria will have to face the humiliation of considering
them, at least formally, as criminals, having insisted for years
that they are innocent."

8. (U) Under the headline "Patience for the Nurses,"
largest-circulation daily Trud said the Court's ruling was expected
and warned against overly-optimistic forecasts that the nurses will
be back in Bulgaria within a few months. The paper also printed
Ambassador Beyrle's reaction that "the U.S. is disappointed by
yesterday's outcome." "They Are Innocent Nevertheless" reads the
front-page headline of Standard Daily, which also noted that neither
Bulgaria, the EU or the U.S. have confirmed Tuesday's reports by
international media about a settlement with the children's families.
The organizers of the "You Are Not Alone" campaign said they would
pass out for free 100,000 posters reading "Innocent" as part of
their ongoing campaign. However, they responded positively to the
government's request that they desist from plans to paint the word
"Innocent" in seven-foot tall letters on a wall across the street
from the Libyan embassy.

9. (SBU) COMMENT. Overall, the Bulgarian response to this latest
development has been surprisingly restrained. One official in the
Prime Minister's office told us that he spoke personally with
editors of the major media outlets, urging them to adopt a
responsible tone. All eyes are now on the meeting of the Higher
Judicial Council, scheduled for July 16. The longer the Council
takes to decide the fate of the nurses, the greater will be the
pressure on Bulgarian politicians to respond with forceful public
statements. For the time being, Bulgarian officials are content to
await the next act. However, the underlying passions that this
issue invokes in Bulgaria will be difficult to control if the
curtain does not come down soon. BEYRLE

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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