During the first trial, the Libyan government did ask Luc Montagnier, whose group at the Pasteur Institute in Paris discovered HIV, and Vittorio Colizzi, an AIDS researcher at Rome's Tor Vergata University, to examine the scientific evidence. The researchers carried out a genetic analysis of viruses from the infected children, and concluded that many of them were infected long before the medics set foot in Libya in March 1998. Many of the children were also infected with hepatitis B and C, suggesting that the infections were spread by poor hospital hygiene. The infections were caused by subtypes of A/G HIV-1 — a recombinant strain common in central and west Africa, known to be highly infectious.
But the court threw out the report, arguing that an investigation by Libyan doctors had reached the opposite conclusion. Montagnier believes the judgement was based at least partly on mistranslation from English to Arabic of the term 'recombinant' — instead of referring to natural recombination of wild viruses, as intended, it was interpreted to mean genetically modified, implying human manipulation.
According to Alexiev, the decision to throw out the report removed all scientific content from the case, leaving a series of prejudgements, and confessions extracted under torture. "It's scandalous," he says. "This is a complex scientific affair, and it is impossible to judge it without a scientific basis."
The full Nature journal article (free access on this one), with the details can be found at
Scientific ignorance is not just amusing, it's not just dangerous, it's deadly. This is a prime example of what sorts of things happen when people who ignore science to promote an agenda gain power. This is exactly why we need to fight so hard to keep religious fundamentalists and other scientifically ignorant scumbag whack jobs from gaining control, in the political forum or the educational one.
I'd like to take a moment to encourage you all to lend your blogging voices to the global chorus which calls for the immediate release of these folks.
The diplomats of the U.S. and the E.U. have done pretty much nothing for these people. Libya has oil, and who cares if the current dictator executes a few Bulgarians and Palestinians if we can get some oil out of him, right?
We lend our voices to the chorus. Free them NOW!