July 24, 2007

Contact: Lynne Weil, 202-225-5021

Lantos Welcomes Release of Falsely-Accused Medical Workers, Urges More HIV/AIDS Education in Libya

Washington, DC - U.S. Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA), chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today commended the Libyan government for finally releasing six foreign medics who had been falsely accused of infecting hundreds of Libyan children with the virus that causes AIDS.

"These six falsely-accused individuals have awaited vindication for far too long," Lantos said. "Their freedom now is a credit to the more enlightened approach that Tripoli is taking to a range of issues, and to the remarkable and persistent work of Bulgarian, E.U., U.S. and Libyan diplomats. But this sorry episode clearly shows that Libya needs to deepen its commitment to justice, and should invest in education on preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS. Respected authorities, Libyan and non-Libyan alike, have pointed to the pathetic, unhygenic conditions in the hospital as the likely source of the tragic infections for which these innocent medics were blamed. Better sanitation and education are the keys to keeping such events, or worse, from happening again."

Lantos, the founding co-chairman of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, is the leading figure in the U.S. Congress promoting improved relations between Washington and Tripoli. He has visited Libya and met with Colonel Moammar Gadhafi six times since the Libyan leader announced in December 2003 that he was dismantling his country's nuclear weapons program. As progress on this matter and other issues has continued, Lantos has urged full normalization of ties between Libya and the United States.