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Libya procrastinating on Imam Sadr case: family

This file picture shows Shiite Muslim spiritual leader, Imam Moussa Sadr who disappeared on a trip to Libya in 1978, attached to a light pole in Beirut's southern suburbs. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)

BEIRUT: The family of missing Lebanese Shiite Imam Musa Sadr is complaining about Libya’s reluctance to investigate the case, a source close to the family told The Daily Star.

The source, who is also familiar with the case, was the one who discovered that a dead body suspected of being Sadr’s actually belonged to a renowned Libyan opposition figure, Mansour Rashid Kikhia.

“There isn’t enough cooperation from the Libyan side over the case. The Libyan authorities are reluctant to carry out the necessary investigation, and they are always procrastinating,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Sadr, a charismatic leader of the Shiite community in Lebanon, disappeared while visiting Libya in August 1978. Sheikh Mohammad Yaacoub and journalist Abbas Badreddine, who were accompanying the imam, also went missing.

“Lebanese [authorities], and especially the family [of Sadr], have had enough of Libya belittling the case and will soon act against them,” the source said.

“The [people and authorities] concerned with the case won’t wait long for Libya to cooperate. They will use diplomatic, media and political channels to urge the Libyans to stop taking things lightly,” the source said.

Sadr’s mysterious disappearance in Libya more than 33 years ago was a source of tension between Lebanon and Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s regime, which always maintained that the imam had left Libya for Italy. The Italian government has always denied that Sadr entered the country at that time.

While Lebanon’s judiciary pressed charges against Gadhafi and a number of aides over the case in 2008, efforts to investigate Sadr’s disappearance began in January 2012, after a popular uprising toppled the longtime dictator. A Lebanese judicial committee tasked with following up on the case with Libyan authorities was formed two years ago.

A major turning point in the case took place last April, when the head of Libya’s National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, said Libyan officials were almost certain that Sadr’s remains had been discovered in a mass grave after the Libyan capital was liberated from forces loyal to Gadhafi.

“The DNA tests conducted on the body revealed it was not that of Sadr and further investigation proved that the remains belonged to Kikhia,” the source told The Daily Star said.

Kikhia, a former foreign minister and United Nations ambassador, and later the leading opposition figure against Gadhafi, was abducted in 1993 in Egypt by agents who handed him over to Libyan authorities. He was later executed.

According to the source, Libyan authorities are not involved in the Lebanese investigation of Sadr’s disappearance and have been reluctant to question Gadhafi’s cronies, who are all being detained in Libyan prisons.

The Lebanese committee interrogated the former head of Libyan intelligence, Abdullah Sanoussi, last year for five hours in Mauritania, and again in Libya’s capital, Tripoli.

But according to the source “more questioning is needed with Sanoussi, who hasn’t been pressured enough to speak, and other figures from the former regime, such as Gadhafi’s son, Seif al-Islam.”

“We don’t know why they are acting this way; we understand that the country is experiencing some security incidents and political problems in the post-Gadhafi stage, but that isn’t an excuse to be slack in dealing with the case,” the source said.

“This isn’t a case of a [single] group or party; it’s a national [issue[, which the Lebanese authorities should also exert pressure to conclude.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 01, 2013, on page 3.

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