Opinion: Gadhafi's Cynical Game of Blackmail
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Europeans may breathe a sigh of relief that Libya has commuted the death sentences of Bulgarian nurses. But the entire incident might lead to others blackmailing the West, says DW's Rainer Sollich.
The whole trial was a cynical game of blackmail with foreign hostages -- and a still uncertain outcome. The Gadhafi regime tellingly didn't even consider it necessary to come up with comprehensible charges.
It would have been hard to imagine -- even in many other dictatorships -- that such a bizarre accusation turns into a verdict that's upheld by several courts: The death penalty for foreign medical personnel accused of -- deliberately -- infecting more than 400 Libyan children with the virus that causes AIDS. It doesn't get much more grotesque than this.
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At least it's clear now that the death penalty will not be executed. One can only hop that that the nurses will soon be transferred to Bulgaria.
But even that's probably also a question of money. It's already clear the families of the HIV-infected children will receive compensation that also partially comes from Europe. It's safe to presume this despite the denials.
One could say that all those involved will benefit in the end. But that's still not certain, and even if that's indeed the case, it still gets more complicated.
The families of the Libyan victims should get any help that's possible, but one shouldn't overlook the fact that the fate of the nurses is still unknown and that they spent eight years -- presumably innocent -- in prison. Reports by international experts documented their innocence in a credible way. According to them, a lack of hygiene in the hospital was responsible for the infections.
It's obvious why these reports were ignored. No Libyan judge could reach a verdict that would blame the state health care system -- and indirectly the ruling class below dictator Moammar Gadhafi -- for the HIV infections of more than 400 children. That's why they searched for a way to save face -- and simply blamed foreign nurses and physicians.
Gadhafi knows exactly who much the Europeans need him and his country. Libya is not only gradually opening up to western markets and possesses large oil reserves, the country is also needed by the Europeans as a bastion against illegal immigration.
The West is also relieved that Libya has renounced terrorism. That's why Gadhafi thinks he can afford to take foreign medical personnel hostage for his interests. Once the foreigners are released, nothing will stand in the way of good relations with the West. Other regimes could learn a lesson from this: how to blackmail western states.
Rainer Sollich heads DW-RADIO's Arabic service (win)