[07SOFIA846] BULGARIA REACTS WITH RESTRAINT TO LIBYAN DEATH SENTENCES, URGES SWIFT REVIEW

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Published by Wikileaks & Bivol.bg
 date: 7/12/2007 14:13 refid: 07SOFIA846 origin: Embassy Sofia classification: UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY destination:  header: 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 
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