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Mansour, Lebanese judge to question Sanousi on Sadr’s fate

A billboard shows Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, left, and Shiite cleric Imam Musa Sadr is seen on the Zahrani highway, Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)

BEIRUT: Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour and a Lebanese judge arrived in Mauritania Sunday to question the chief of intelligence under Libya’s toppled leader Moammar Gadhafi on the fate of Imam Musa Sadr, a source close to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said.

“The Mauritanian government has agreed to questioning the [former] chief of Libyan intelligence Abdullah al-Sanousi by Lebanese officials on the crime of Imam Sadr’s disappearance,” the source told The Daily Star.

“Speaker Berri is waiting for the results of [Sanousi’s] questioning,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.

Sanousi, known as “a treasury of Gadhafi’s secrets,” was one of the closest aides to the deposed leader. He was fully aware of the visit by Sadr and his two companions to Libya in 1978, media reports said.

Sanousi and Gadhafi’s son, Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, have been indicted by the International Criminal Court in relation to attacks against protesters and rebels during Libya’s pro-democracy uprising last year.

After Gadhafi was killed by Libyan rebels, some of his senior aides, including Sanousi, fled to neighboring countries, including Tunisia, Mauritania and other Arab and European countries.

Berri said last Friday that the next two days would be decisive in resolving the long-simmering riddle over the case of Sadr, who vanished during an official visit to Libya in 1978. He spoke at a mass rally organized by his Amal Movement in the southern market town of Nabatieh to commemorate the 34th anniversary of Sadr’s disappearance.

Sadr, the founder of the Shiite Amal Movement now headed by Berri, went missing along with Sheikh Mohammad Yacoub and journalist Abbas Badreddine during a visit to Libya on Aug. 31, 1978. Berri and Shiite religious leaders have accused Gadhafi of being responsible for the cleric’s disappearance.

Judge Hasan Shami, a member of the government committee tasked with pursuing Sadr’s case, who accompanied Mansour on his visit to Mauritania, was expected to question Sanousi on the cleric’s fate. He dismissed reports on the discovery of Sadr’s suspected body or his clothes in Libya as “baseless.”

In a TV interview, Shami said he still believed that Sadr and his two companions were held in an unknown detention center in Libya.

“We believe that Imam Sadr is still alive because it has been confirmed that the imam did not leave Libya and also because there has been no proof of his death,” Shami said.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese government is continuing talks with Turkish authorities to secure the release of 12 Lebanese held in Syria, Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said. “We are seeking the release of all Lebanese kidnapped in Syria,” Charbel told The Daily Star Sunday night.

He said that in addition to the 10 remaining Lebanese pilgrims abducted by the rebel Free Syrian Army, Hasan Meqdad and another Lebanese were also being held by Syrian rebels.

“The talks with the Turkish side are continuing to win the release of the 12 Lebanese at all once,” he said. “Efforts are under way to secure the release of all the hostages together.”

Earlier Sunday, Al-Jadeed TV, quoting its correspondent in Turkey, said that a delegation from the Committee of Muslim Scholars in Lebanon was in Turkey to negotiate the release of the 10 Lebanese pilgrims held by the FSA. Al-Jadeed said that Awad Ibrahim, one of the 10 hostages who suffers from health problems, was expected to be released in the next few hours.

According to Al-Jadeed, the scholars’ delegation demanded the release of the 10 hostages all at once.

Asked to comment on the TV station’s report, Charbel said: “We have not been informed of anything from the Turkish authorities.” He added that the talks with the Turkish side were making “slow progress.”

Charbel is part of a ministerial committee tasked with resolving the issue of Lebanese hostages held by Syrian rebels. The committee, which is headed by Deputy Prime Minister Samir Moqbel and also includes the foreign affairs, labor and justice ministers, was in contact with the Turkish authorities on the issue. It has kept silent on the results of its contacts.

Hopes for a resolution to the issue of Lebanese hostages in Syria have risen since last month’s release of one hostage by Syrian captors.

Charbel said the release of Hussein Ali Omar set the stage for an overall solution to the crisis of Lebanese kidnapping victims in Syria as well as Syrians abducted in Lebanon.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 03, 2012, on page 1.

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