Declan Butler, reporter This is the personal blog of Declan Butler, a senior reporter at Nature. All views expressed here are mine, and not those of Nature. Contact me at

October 29, 2006

Libya trial next Tuesday — update

Filed under: HIV,Justice,Libya — admin @ 9:18 pm

With the Libyan death penalty trial of the Tripoli Six scheduled to end next Tuesday in Libya, I thought I’d post an update on some on the buildup of international pressure over the past few days.

October 28, 2006

Map of press freedom

Filed under: GIS,Google Earth,Justice — admin @ 5:57 pm

Reporters Without Borders released its annual worldwide press freedom index on 23 October. Ive made a quick Google Earth map of the data — click here to view and see screenshot below.

October 25, 2006

Exclusive: Nature article demolishes prosecution’s scientific evidence in Libya HIV death penalty trial

Filed under: HIV,Justice,Libya — admin @ 6:37 pm

Nature has obtained an Arabic to English translation of the ‘scientific evidence’ which has been key to the prosecution’s case in the trial of six medics in Libya, and asked top international AIDS and health scientists to assess it. They unanimously conclude that the evidence is a compilation of conjecture and supposition, that could not even justify suspecting the medics, let alone holding them in prison for 7 years on death penalty charges. The next, and last, session of the trial is next Tuesday (31 October), and a verdict will come in the days or weeks after.

Nature took this exceptional action of asking internationally-renowned scientists to review prosecution evidence, because the Tripoli court has denied requests by defence lawyers to have evidence from international scientists heard. So if the Libyan court refuses to hear what independent top scientists have to say, I feel it is my duty to at least have them aired before the international community, so that it can judge for itself.

October 24, 2006

44 top scientists call for Tripoli Six release in Science Magazine

Filed under: HIV,Justice,Libya — admin @ 4:18 pm

Science magazine has today joined the campaign on the Tripoli Six. Great to see the world’s two largest science magazines brothers in arms on this case. The full letter is available here.

Scientists Call for Release of Healthcare Workers in Libya Wrongly Accused of Intentionally Infecting Children with HIV.


October 23, 2006

UK Times on Tripoli Six

Filed under: HIV,Justice,Libya — admin @ 5:42 pm

The UK Times has an Editorial piece in today’s edition: Science rallies to save the Tripoli Six from Gaddafi’s firing squads

October 20, 2006

Mp3 available of Leonard Lopate broadcast on Libya medics case

Filed under: HIV,Justice,Libya — admin @ 5:47 pm

If you would like to listen to last nights Leonard Lopate WNYC show on the Tripoli Six the MP3 of the half-hour segment is now available online. Leonard discussed the case with me and David Stamps, vice president of Amnesty International USA. To download the MP3 file — click here.

Update: WYNC tell me that I can embed the audio in my blog post, so here goes my attempt.

October 18, 2006

The New York Academy of Sciences writes to Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi

Filed under: HIV,Justice,Libya — admin @ 8:56 pm

The New York Academy of Sciences has let me know that the letter they sent on the Libyan case is now available on the Web here.

I’ve reproduced it below:

Federation of the European Academies of Medicine writes to Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi

Filed under: HIV,Justice,Libya — admin @ 5:55 pm

The Federation of the European Academies of Medicine (FEAM) has written this letter to His Excellency Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi. The letter concludes:

October 16, 2006

New York Public Radio to air 1h broadcast on Libya case

Filed under: HIV,Justice,Libya — admin @ 6:23 pm

The Leonard Lopate Show on New York Public Radio (WNYC) will run a 1h broadcast on Thursday on the Tripoli Six and the current trial as part of its weekly “Underreported Series.” I’ll be the invited guest, and the live broadcast (1-2 pm EST) will cover the background of the case, where the trial stands now, and discuss its implications for the scientific community, for foreign health professionals, for human rights in Libya, etc, and the mounting protests against the trial.

It will also be broadcast on the Web here, or you can sign up to get the podcast here. This will be an excellent opportunity to get the facts of this poorly-publicised case out to a wider public, as the title of the series suggests.

Update (20th October): finally we had a half-hour segment. What was great was that David Stamp, vice president of Amnesty International USA, also joined the show. The MP3 file of the show is now available — to download click here.

October 15, 2006

Resource page for HIV Libya trial

Filed under: HIV,Justice,Libya — admin @ 7:28 pm

Many of you have expressed difficulties in being able to quickly obtain information on the Libya HIV case, or actions that can be taken. To try to help with this, I’ve today created a very rough “resources page,” where I will try to centralize key reports, links, and action guides. I will keep this updated, so if you have any good links please send me them on

I will also shortly add court and other key documents.

October 14, 2006

Pressure grows for fair trial for Tripoli Six

Filed under: HIV,Justice,Libya,Uncategorized — admin @ 7:49 pm

This post is a word of thanks to all bloggers for their posts — now more than 200 — helping to keep up attention in this crucial phase of the Tripoli Six trial before the court’s last sitting on 31 October. Here are just two good examples among the many: today The Daily Kos, the world’s largest political blog, and Effect Measure, a progressive science blog, both published updates — see here and here.

This is in addition to renewed efforts this week, by the New York Times, who should be congratulated for being the first mainstream media to grasp the new current urgency in this long-running trial, and the many human rights and science bodies who have likewise weighed in over the past week with their renewed support — see here, here, here, and here.

This effort is all the more admirable as one of the biggest difficulties of maintaining sustained attention on this issue is that events occur only very sporadically, with long intervals in between, making hard news angles few and far between.

There are now less than three weeks before the end of the current trial in Libya, three weeks where sustained pressure can influence the outcome of the verdict — and remember that the verdict will be the only news on the case that most of the mainstream news agencies will likely report on in the coming weeks.

New York Times editorial on Libya case

Filed under: HIV,Justice,Libya,Uncategorized — admin @ 9:33 am

The New York Times today published a strong editorial — “A Medical-Legal Travesty in Libya” —
As one can seen from my last few posts, momentum — for international pressure for a fair trial and for the scientific evidence to be heard in the case — is now building in the crucial run up to the next and last court session in Tripoli on 31 October.

Excerpts below:

October 13, 2006

UK science bodies call for fair trial in Tripoli Six case to avoid “judicial murder.”

Filed under: HIV,Justice,Libya,Uncategorized — admin @ 10:24 am

The UK Times has today published a letter — link here — from Lord Rees, president of the Royal Society, Sir Keith Peters, president of the UK Academy of Medical Sciences, Ian Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians, and Thomas Lehner, from Kings College, London. The letter, “Foreign workers at risk in Libya,” concludes with this sentence:

“We ask the medical and scientific authorities of the United Nations, Arab countries, United States and European Union (Bulgaria will join the EU in three months) to exert their utmost influence on President Gaddafi to prevent what might amount to judicial murder.”

October 11, 2006

Three pages of Nature on Science & Human Rights

Filed under: HIV,Justice,Libya — admin @ 9:56 pm

Dear all
Broadening out on the Libyan HIV case, given that the trial will not resume until 31 October, tomorrow’s issue of Nature takes a look at the Libyan case within the wider context of science and human rights. I’ve a two-page story in, and Nature itself also has an editorial on the topic — they should be on free access. I’m up to my neck in deadlines, but will also endeavour to so some digging on this case in the weeks to come.

Here are a few excerpts from the Editorial.

October 10, 2006

Map for World Day Against the Death Penalty.

Filed under: Justice — admin @ 10:31 pm

Today is World Day Against the Death Penalty. It is also the 25th anniversary of the abolition of the death penalty in France.
To commemorate the events, I’ve made a GE map of the status of legislation worldwide, based on data from Amnesty International.

October 7, 2006

Physicians for Human Rights adds its voice to Libya medics’ case

Filed under: HIV,Justice,Libya,Uncategorized — admin @ 8:40 pm

Physicians for Human Rights has tonight weighed in again on the Tripoli Six case, with this alert. I’ve appended its text, which is a good explanation, below.


October 6, 2006

More on CIESIN data

Filed under: GIS,Google Earth — admin @ 6:47 pm

Greg kindly posted a comment to my earlier post on the CIESIN poverty maps, to let me know that CIESIN is making GE versions of its data via WMS. I’m promoting it to a post. I’ve made a network link to view some of his files here; the resolution of the images increases as one zooms in.

October 5, 2006

Amnesty International issues alert on Tripoli Six

Filed under: HIV,Justice,Libya,Uncategorized — admin @ 10:24 pm

See statement here.
The full text is appended below:

October 4, 2006

AAAS issues alert on Tripoli Six

Filed under: HIV,Justice,Libya — admin @ 5:50 pm

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Human Rights Program has just released this urgent alert to its extensive human rights network on the news developments on the case described here. Their appeal page also contains a useful letter generating tool.
The AAAS has taken an active interest in this case in the past, and it is good to see it weighing in again, as it has significant clout. Other scientific human rights organizations tell me that they will also be shortly issuing renewed alerts. I will keep you posted.

The full text is appended below:

October 2, 2006

Nature review of ‘Infection!’ documentary

Filed under: HIV,Justice,Libya — admin @ 6:41 pm has a review up this evening of Mickey Grant’s documentary on the six medics risking execution in Libya on concocted charges of infecting 426 children with HIV. You will remember that Mickey made his full length 1h22min documentary free on Google Video last week to help the blog campaign requesting that Libya’s courts order an independent international scientific assessment of the case, so that the medics’ innocence can be proven.


October 1, 2006

Stunning, and important, new GIS maps of Poverty

Filed under: GIS — admin @ 9:41 pm

Columbia University’s Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) released 28 September an important set of new GIS data related to poverty; the project homepage is here. Most of the data are also available as shapefiles — after getting to this page, click “global” or “national” to get them (with comprehensive metadata) — and so allows one to analyse the data against other relevant datasets.

The CIESIN datasets provide global views of indicators such as infant mortality and hunger, with some surprizing results:

Tripoli Six update

Filed under: HIV,Justice,Libya — admin @ 6:09 pm

Effect Measure has published a brief update on the situation, including useful links, such as how to write appropriate, polite, letters. Mike Dunford at The Questionable Authority also has useful links on what you can do.

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