Why is Lebanon Holding Hannibal Gaddafi Hostage?
Franklin Lamb, Counterpunch, Apr 8 2016
BEIRUT – As of this week, following his arrest on Dec 15 2015, Hannibal Gaddafi, one of seven children of Moammar Gaddafi and his Widow Safia Farkash, has spent, without a scintilla of evidence that he violated any Lebanese law, nearly 16 weeks wrongly incarcerated in a Beirut jail. Mr Gaddafi is being held for only one reason: a botched attempt by certain politicians here to exact a $200m ransom from the new UN-backed government of Libya as it tries to bring some stability to that beleaguered country. Lebanon’s court appears not to be quite sure how to end this charade. The demand for the $200m ransom is not being made by the government of Lebanon, nor by the Lebanese judiciary, but rather by a Lebanese politician with the political power to corrupt Lebanon’s judiciary, Lebanon’s government and Lebanon’s constitution. The $200m dollar scheme imploded recently when it was revealed to the international public weeks ago by Hannibal’s lawyer, Ms Bouchra Khalil. The lawyer’s revelations of the scheme put the kibosh on the ransom demand for freeing Gaddafi. The Tripoli coalition government continues to reject the extortion plan, despite pressure from certain Lebanese politicians to pay up. Hannibal has been living in Damascus for more than a year, and wants to return there until he can safely return to Libya. Some political observers in Libya and elsewhere believe that Hannibal’s siblings, brother Seif’al-Islam Gaddafi and sister Aisha Gaddafi, a human rights lawyer and former UN goodwill ambassador, will return to Libya and enter politics as the political reformers and champions of human rights they were known to be before NATO crushed the country, creating the mayhem we observe today.
Support inside Libya and regionally for both Gaddafi children to return and help create a stable government is growing, according to Libyan expats living in Cairo, tribal leaders across much of Libya, the French government and others. Given that Hannibal has committed no crime, but rather that he himself is the victim of a brutal pistol-whipping, torture, kidnapping and attempted extortion, according to Hannibal’s lawyer and Lebanon’s judiciary, by the sons of Sheikh Mohammad Yaacoub, who along with Imam Musa Sadr disappeared in Tripoli Libya on Aug 31 1978. Lebanon’s judiciary is in an awkward spot. They realize that they are illegally holding an innocent man under the false pretence that he is “withholding information” of an event that occurred when he was three years old, and who has testified in court that all he ever heard about the Musa Sadr case growing up, which was not much, came from his big brother, Seif’al-Islam, now being held in Zintan, Libya by a militia. Needless to say, Lebanon’s judiciary, which is frequently accused of being compromised by the sectarian poison that has all but destroyed this “country,” and particularly the presiding judge, are embarrassed and under increasing pressure from local and global human rights groups to end the Hannibal Gaddafi charade and release him. Hannibal’s release is also being demanded by the government of Syria, which granted Hannibal political asylum some 14 months ago and which is legally bound to offer him protection. Both AI and HRW have criticized his unlawful detention. The Gaddafi case has also caused tension between the Government of Syria and Lebanon’s Amal Party, headed by Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri, who according to Hannibal’s lawyer hatched the ransom project which got messed up by Hasan Yaacoub organizing Hannibal’s kidnapping and who has long harbored plans to secede Berri as Amal leader, given the latter’s age and health problems.
Out of sympathy for Imtithal, the widow of Iman Musa Sadr’s companion Sheikh Mohammad Yaacoub, and concern for her failing health which has been exacerbated by the arrest of her sons, the Lebanese judiciary has decided to grant bail to Hasan’s older brother Hussein. It has also decided not to arrest his younger brother Ali, who according to Hannibal and his lawyer was the brother who severely beat Hannibal’s face with a pistol. The presiding judge is also thought to be sensitive to losing the public’s support in this case if the three sons’ mother is seen as being unnecessarily pressured by all her sons being jailed. Hannibal’s lawyer has filed a motion for the presiding judge to recuse himself, given the growing perception in some quarters that “Shi’a pressure” may compromise the Judge’s objectivity, so it is better that he excuse himself and prevent a possible conflict of interest or perception of lack of impartiality. The wording of Lebanon’s constitution is excellent and is virtually a copy of the French Third Constitution, given to Lebanon during the French Mandate for Syria and the Lebanon (1923−1946). The French are now on their 7th constitution, and counting. But it becomes null and void and is ignored by some politicians and government officials whenever it appears to clash with sectarian and tribal interests.
Lebanon’s judges by and large are reputed to be honest, but what weakens the legal system here is the same poisonous sectarianism that has deeply corrupted much of Lebanon. Virulent political sectarianism is the main reason that Lebanon has in many ways never been a real country, is not now, and perhaps never will be unless a solution can be found among this country’s 18 sects to create a real democracy. The sects’ inability to even agree on a president for the past nearly two years is however not encouraging. Despite the continuing illegal and outrageous detention of Hannibal Qaddafi, a political, not a judicial, solution is at hand. It will likely unfold something like this. Hannibal will be released soon, since the $200m is not coming this way, and the kidnapping scheme has been exposed. He will be free to return to Syria. As for the kidnappers and torturers, they too will likely have their cases dismissed, on sectarian-political rather than judicial grounds, and they will be released as well. Hannibal’s lawsuit against Ali Yaacoub, the brother of ex-MP Hasan Yaacoub, who is accused of abducting him, and Ali Yaacoub’s lawsuit against him and his lawyer Bouchra Khalil, as well as the lawsuit by the Imam Sadr family and the family of the second companion of Imam Musa Sadr, journalist Abbas Badreddin, who also disappeared, will all be dismissed. At some point, Lebanon will have to dismantle its sectarian system which paralyses it and corrupts its government. But the problem remains that the current corrupt system here enriches precisely those whose leadership for reform has been required. At some point, Lebanon’s progressive youth will rise up and with their fed-up countrymen throw out the former “warlords” who have granted themselves amnesty for civil war crimes and then anointed themselves as “political lords.” When this will happen is anyone’s guess, but pressure here is building for major and long-overdue reform.