CAIRO: Following widespread jubilation Tuesday over the release of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor from a Libyan prison, some Egyptian analysts have revealed their skepticism over the move.
Libya has adopted a more pro-Western outlook in recent years, dismantling its Weapons of Mass Destruction program as a gesture to the US, and restoring diplomatic ties with Washington in May last year.
And the decision taken by Libyan authorities to release the six accused – made after lengthy negotiations with the European Union (EU) – has been dubbed by some as a capitulation to Western political pressure.
“If we are to believe this case was genuine, then how could they be released, political analyst, Fayek Fahim told The Daily Star Egypt. “These people have been convicted of killing many children – an extremely serious crime.
Fahim accused Libya of pandering to Western interests to make political gains, and adopting a “Machiavellian political strategy, beginning with last year’s disarmament.
“Libya is in the habit of gaining political profit these days, he said. “We remember when they relinquished their weapons last year, and all of a sudden the [diplomatic] blockade was lifted. Now [they relinquish] their legal system.
Emad Gad, political analyst at Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, told The Daily Star Egypt that he believes Libya is sending a message to the EU that the country has changed, and is ready for normalization of relations with both Europe and the US.
“Obviously if these prisoners were not Westerners, they would never have been released, he said. “But [Qaddafi] wants Libya to enter a partnership with Europe, and change its image to a Mediterranean one.
Fahim pointed out that the case reveals a Western contempt for Arab judiciaries, and a disregard for the region’s legal systems.
“Can you imagine this happening in Denmark, Holland or Sweden? Could anyone go and tell their courts they are mistaken? Of course not. This is a classic case of disregard for our legal systems.
According to Gad, however, there was no real judicial system to begin with.
“In countries like Libya, the final decision on legal matters is always with the president, the King, the Prince. The judiciary functions, but decisions can always be overruled by the leader.
London-based Libya expert and human rights lawyer, Saad Djebbar, disagrees. “All the necessary judicial steps were taken, he told The Daily Star Egypt by telephone, and added that “there was no interference at all [from Europe].
Rather, he argues, the Libyan decision to release the medics was the result of “goodwill , and the emergence of a new “collective approach .
“This has been dealt with in a humanitarian manner, he said, “and now Libya will receive medical assistance it badly needed.
“Everyone’s a winner.
There had been speculation that the Bulgarian prisoners were being exchanged for the release of Abdel Basset Ali Al-Megrahi, a Libyan agent serving a life sentence in Scotland for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.
An Arab diplomat familiar with the talks told Associated Press said that Libyan negotiators had tried to secure Al-Megrahi s release, but that the Europeans had refused.
As early as January Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, who had been working for the release of the Bulgarians, had ruled out such a swap.