Free, at last:

First and foremost, we rejoice with the families of the five Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian doctor who have been held hostage by Libya for eight and a half years. Eight and a half years in a Libyan prison, with a death sentence hanging over them on ridiculous charges of deliberately infecting 438 children with HIV, is a brutal ordeal for medics. The release of the six medical workers has been accompanied by considerable hoopla over Muammar el-Qaddafi’s purported conversion to a responsible leader. At the outset, the Libyan leader actively participated in the farce by charging that the nurses were acting on orders of US intelligence agencies. But starting in 2003, Qaddafi dramatically changed his approach to one of seeking détente with the West. Freeing the nurses was widely regarded as the last major stage in Qaddafi’s makeover.

We hope the Libyan model inspires other rogue states to change their ways. But nobody should lose sight of the fact that the medics were held as hostages, and that the deal that set them free included $460 million in what is being called “damages,” but that can only be characterised as ransom.

There is nothing noble in this action: This was a case of extortion. Real justice would have been served by Qaddafi paying this money to the long-suffering medics. — International Herald Tribune