Seif al-Islam Qaddafi made his comments this week in an interview with Al-Jazeera television.
Soon after the medics were freed on July 24, after a deal between Tripoli and the European Union, tales of the alleged torture they underwent in captivity began to surface.
Dr. Ashraf al-Hazouz, the Palestinian doctor in the group -- who was granted Bulgarian citizenship -- was the most vocal in his accusations.
Al-Hazouz said the medics were treated “like animals” by the Libyan authorities. The examples of torture he recounted included beatings, electric shocks, attacks by dogs, rape threats, and being tied to a metal bar and spun around “like a chicken on a rotisserie.”
All were apparently aimed at getting the medics to “admit” their guilt in infecting Libyan children with HIV.
European leaders, who were quick to praise Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi in the wake of the medics’ release, and promise closer relations, kept mum about al-Hazouz’s allegations.
On the day of the release, EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the positive conclusion of the case would make possible a full normalization of Libya’s relations with the European Union.
"I assured [Qaddafi] of our wish to further normalize the relations between the European Union and Libya,” Barroso said. “And I told him that if this matter was settled we would do our best to further normalize these relations because we believe it is in the interest of Libya and, of course, in the interest of Europe, and it is also in the general interest of better relations between Europe and the Arab and Islamic world."
So it came as something of a surprise this week, when Qaddafi’s son himself admitted that al-Hazouz was right. Libyan authorities did torture the medics.
“Yes, the medics were tortured by electricity and they were threatened that their family members would be targeted,” Qaddafi’s son told Al-Jazeera television.
Qaddafi junior made no apology for the torture nor did he offer any explanation. He also said some of al-Hazouz’s allegations were not true.
Again, there has been no immediate reaction from European leaders to the younger Qaddafi’s statement. But it was not the first time that he put the EU in an embarrassing position.
When the medics were released, French President Nicholas Sarkozy said categorically that Paris had paid no ransom money. "I can quite simply confirm to you that neither Europe nor France have made the slightest financial contribution to Libya," Sarkozy said.
But in an interview with “Newsweek” magazine this week, Seif al-Islam Qaddafi said France had given Libya at least 300 million euros ($410 million) to modernize its hospitals, in addition to 400 million euros ($550 million) for the victims of the HIV outbreak. He also said France would sell Libya a “very huge and expensive” nuclear reactor.
Asked whether the whole transaction amounted to blackmail, Qaddafi acknowledged: “It is blackmail.” But, he said, “Everyone tries to play with this card to advance his own interest.”
What motivated Qaddafi to make his revelations remains unclear. It is also unclear whether his father shares all of his son’s views -- although it seems unlikely Qaddafi junior would make such public admissions to the foreign media without consulting his father.
Was it an attempt to clear the air, as Libya looks forward to better relations with the West? Was it a calculated strike to embarrass Sarkozy? Or is the younger Qaddafi simply eccentric -- like his father?
Perhaps we’ll never know. But it does put the European Union in a tight spot.
An HIV-positive Ukrainian woman and her daughter (epa)
FACES OF THE EPIDEMIC: HIV-infection rates continue to soar in many parts of RFE/RL's broadcast region, from Ukraine and Russia to Central Asia. RFE/RL frequently reports on the problems associated with the pandemic and efforts to combat them.