By Franklin Lamb
As of this week, following his arrest on December 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 one reason only. A botched attempt by certain politicians here to exact a $ 200,000,000 ransom before releasing Hannibal Gaddafi was made between Lebanese politician Nabih Berri and the illegal Tripoli government , which is not recognized by the UN and which has been recently replaced
Lebanon’s court appears not to be quite sure how to end this charade. The demand for the 200 million dollar ransom is not being made by the government of Lebanon nor by the Lebanese judiciary, but rather by a Lebanese politician (s) with the political power to corrupt Lebanon’s judiciary, Lebanon’s government and Lebanon’s constitution.
The $ 200 million 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, as well as kidnapping and extortion crimes, according to Hannibal’s lawyer and Lebanon’s judiciary, by the sons of Sheik Mohammad Yaacoub, who along with Imam Musa Sadr disappeared in Tripoli Libya on August 31, 1978, Lebanon’s judiciary is in an awkward spot.
They realize that they are illegally holding an innocent man under false pretense.
They realize that they are illegally holding an innocent man under the false pretense that he is “withholding information” of an event that occurred when he was two years old and who has testified repeatedly in court that all he ever heard about the Musa Sadr case growing up, and 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 Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have criticized his unlawful detention.
The Gaddafi case has also caused tension between the Government of Syria and Lebanon’s Amal Militia.
The Gaddafi case has also caused tension between the Government of Syria and Lebanon’s Amal Militia, 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, Sheik 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 loosing the public’s support in this case if the three son’s mother is seen as being unnecessarily pressured by all her sons being jailed.
Hannibal has been living in Damascus for more than a year and wants to return until he can go back to Libya, as some political observers in Libya and elsewhere believe that Saif al Islam, and his sister, Aisha, a human rights lawyer and former UN Goodwill Ambassador, will return to Libya and enter politics as the political reformers 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 is growing according to Libyan tribal leaders, the French government, and others.
Hannibal’s lawyer has filed a motion for the presiding judge, who is a Shia Muslim as is she, and most of those involved in the ransom scheme, to recuse himself given the growing perception in some quarters that ‘Shia pressure” may compromise the Judge’s objectivity so it’s better that he excuse himself and prevent a possible conflict of interest or perception of lack of impartiality.
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, in not now, and perhaps never will be unless a solution can be found among this country’s 18 sects to create a real democracy. Given the sects inability for even agree on a president the past nearly two years is not encouraging.
Despite the continuing illegal and outrageous detention of Hannibal Gaddafi, a political not a judicial solution is at hand.
It will likely unfold something like this. Hannibal will be released soon since the $200 million 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, not judicial grounds, and they will be released.
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 and 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.
Lebanon will have to dismantle its sectarian system which paralyses it and corrupts its government.
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 youth will surely rise up and with their fed up countrymen throw out the former “warlords” who have granted themselves amnesty from prosecution 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.