Hannibal Gadaffi Still Held Hostage As Some Lebanese Accused Of Demanding Ransom – OpEd

As of this week, Hannibal Gadaffi, one of seven children of Moammar Gadaffi and his Widow Safia Farkash has spent without a scintilla of evidence that he violated any Lebanese law, nearly one and a half years wrongly incarcerated in a Beirut jail.

The Lebanese government has rejected increased local and international demands that it provide a legal justification for Hannibal’s continued imprisonment and violations of his basic human rights.

Hannibal was abducted from Syria on December 11, 2015. According to Lebanon’s Internal Security Force (ISF), investigators, Amal member Hassan Yaacoub and his brothers Ali and Hussein had orchestrated an elaborate scheme to seize Gaddafi from Syria and force him into Lebanon. They discovered that Hassan Yaacoub had worked with a woman named “Fatima” to lure Gadaffi from the coastal Syrian province of Latakia to Damascus, and on to Lebanon. Security forces arrested Hassan and Hussein Yaacoub but not Ali even though Hannibal has stated that it was Ali who beat him in the face repeatedly with a pistol.

All Hannibal wants is to return to Libya when it’s feasible. Sources close to his family and some political observers in Libya, Cairo and elsewhere believe that his brother, Seif al Islam who has recently been released into loose protective house arrest which, according to his sister and mother, Seif agrees is the safest place for him at the moment, may well be Libya’s future leader.

Seif recently declined a Putin offer of asylum in Russia and favors a UN supervised election to decide Libya’s government. Much of his time these days is reportedly spent building tribal loyalties and some suggest he sometimes coordinates with the General Khalifa Hafter’s, a former Gadaffi aide and currently a leading figure in the Tobruk based government with the support of its Parliament.

As is well known, since the 2011 revolution, Libya has been engulfed in chaos, devolving into civil war in the summer of 2014 when Libya Dawn, a coalition of Islamist and Misratan militias, captured Tripoli. Tribal forces opposing Libya Dawn have coalesced in eastern Libya around Haftar’s Libyan National Army, supporting the national parliament in Tobruk. Russia officially recognizes Tobruk, not Tripoli, as the legitimate government, even printing Tobruk’s banknotes.

In testimony before the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee on 3/10/2017, the chief of the Pentagon’s Africa command, General Thomas Waldhauser, testified that “Russia is trying to exert influence on the ultimate decision of who and what entity and individuals comprise the government inside Libya.” Asked by Russian critic Senator Lindsey Graham whether Russia was “trying to do in Libya what they are doing in Syria”, Waldhauser replied, “Yes.”

Russia appears to be seeking a future role for Seif in Libya’s government. This is relevant to the Musa Sadr case because recently Seif has been saying that “it’s time to put the Sadr case behind us” implying that he will open the Sadr case file to the public.

Seif and Hannibal’s sister Aisha, a human rights lawyer and former UN Goodwill Ambassador, also plans to return to Libya and there is a grassroots movement, especially among Libya’s tribes for the siblings to enter politics as political reformers. Support inside Libya and regionally for both Qaddafi children to return is growing according to Libyan sources.

The above photos courtesy of Libyan Justice Ministry, Tripoli 1/7/2016). Seif al-Islam Gadaffi was sentenced to death by a court in Tripoli on July 28, 2015 in a mass trial of former regime figures widely criticized by human rights groups and observers. However, the verdict was nullified the next year when the Libyan government announced that Seif was included in a General Libyan Amnesty and Seif was freed freed by the Tripoli Court. But Seif is still indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague and Interpol maintains a Red Notice to apprehend him should he travel abroad. Seif’s sister, Aisha Gadaffi is living temporarily in Oman with her mother and children. As with her brother Hannibal, she intends to return to Libya

As noted above, among the power brokers that would likely accept Saif, is the Putin government which is seeking a naval base in Libya as are the Iranians. The French, the UK and most of Africa as well as the several EU countries also show signs of leaning toward Saif. Some are suggesting even in the Trump Administration may not object to Seif, his siblings, and pro-Gadaffi tribes playing a major role in Libya’s future.

Meanwhile, there is growing bitterness in Libya, Lebanon and elsewhere including among a growing number of human rights organizations over the criminal kidnapping, torture and hostage taking for ransom of Hannibal, who has committed no crime. He continues being deprived of the most elementary due process including being barred from even speaking in private with his lawyers.

Those standing accused of his unlawful incarceration include certain Lebanese politicians, their 2013 al Qaeda linked Libya Dawn, interlocutors and would-be partners in Tripoli as well as elements of the Lebanese Judiciary. All, according to Hannibal’s lawyer are motivated by cash with more than one having hid the truth about the fate of Imam Musa Sadr and his companions in order to receive Libyan hush money. Indeed, some of those currently involved in Hannibal’s judicial fiasco stand accused of having known the fate of the Sadr delegation for the past nearly 39 years.

Hannibal’s lawyer among others, inside and outside Lebanon’s legal community, claim that certain politicians insist to hold Hannibal because of the more than one billion dollars that rightfully belongs to the Libyan people. Cash and gold which were reportedly deposited in half a dozen Lebanese banks years ago by aids to former Libyan leader Moammar Gadaffi.

On 2/22/2017, the cousin of Hannibal’s father, Gaddaf al-Dam, with whom this observer met with in Cairo in 2013, told RIA Novosti that in 2011 the Libyan state had approximately $ 600 billion worth of assets inside and outside the country, including $ 200 billion in bank accounts abroad, along with tons of gold and silver.

According to attorney, Boursha Khalil, Hannibal’s case has “two pillars,” Political corruption and the above noted claimed billions of dollars who many want their hands on.

The Shia judges, who are supposed to be in charge of the Hannibal judicial files are under political sectarian pressure from the Amal leadership, and they are frankly not happy about it according to Hannibal’s former lawyer, Boursha Khalil. Nor is Lebanon’s judiciary pleased about the escalating gossip and angst at Lebanon’s Maison De Avocat by members of the Bar Association who object to the suspected judicial corruption in Hannibal’s case.

Lebanon’s Judiciary knows well that Lebanon is 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 Saif and Moatassem which amounted to their repeating some rumors. Their father’s regime kept a light lid on the Sadr case not even discussing it within the family and officials who dared speculate on the case publicly were usually punished.

He testified that in his opinion his father didn’t kidnap Imam Musa Sadr and his two companions. He testified that the responsible one behind the abductions and murders was his father’s aide, Abdul Salam Jalloud. Jalloud is still alive and living in France but the politicians involved in the Sadr case have avoided talking with Jalloud. Hannibal said his father is only responsible for compensating to victims’ families because the mastermind of the kidnapping operation was a government official in his father’s regime.

In response to a question from the interrogating Judge Hamadeh: “Who knows the full story of Imam Musa Sadr?” Hannibal replied: “Three persons; Saif al-Islam Gadaffi, Moatassem Gadaffi, (another brother who was killed near Sirte Libya along with his father in October 2011) and Abdul Salam Jalloud. ” Hannibal also advised the Court that someone who needs to be interrogated is Musa Koussa, Libya’s former Minister of Foreign Affairs who is also still alive and thought might be living in London.

Hannibal elaborated that Abdul Salam Jalloud transferred Sadr to Janzour in Libya to keep him under house arrest, adding that he is not sure what happened next. Judge Hamadeh reminded him that he said in the previous session that Sadr was transferred from Janzour to political prison and then was killed. Hannibal replied that this is indeed his opinion but is not based on direct knowledge.

The above report is basically all that Hannibal has been able to contribute to the judicial inquiry. He has committed no criminal offense and justice demands his immediate release. But that would complicate certain politicians hoped for ransom money.

More than once Hannibal has told the court that he wants to cooperate to solve the case. When he was asked how he wants to do that, he said: “As soon as I would be free, I will contact the main parties in the former Libyan government and we can put an end to this case.”

Unfortunately for Hannibal, putting an end to the Sadr case is not what certain Lebanese politicians want to happen despite claiming otherwise.

As Hannibal’s spurious “withholding information” case increasingly become a charade designed to keep holding him, other false charges have been concocted. Investigative Judge Ferial Dalloul has been assigned a new double jeopardy case. Reportedly she was assigned the file because she is also the spouse of Amal member and official Haytham Joumas.

The new charge against Gadhafi is identical to the one previously dismissed, for allegedly “defaming the judiciary” during a questioning session last December. Back then, Judge Hamadeh issued an arrest warrant against Gadaffi saying the detainee made “implied threats of violence” during an interrogation over his knowledge of Sadr’s disappearance.

Gadaffi denied the charges when a hearing was held. He testified that “Judge Hamadeh provoked me when he described my father as a killer and a criminal before the open court.” Hannibal had previously claimed that his “father was innocent” and that his deputy Jalloud was responsible and he raised his index finger toward the ceiling to emphasize his point. He did not point at Judge Hamadeh according to eyewitnesses. Gadaffi’s lawyer told the presiding judge that his client “had no intention of threatening the Court in any way adding that the defendant’s remarks were not designed to insult.

Few if anyone in court that day credited this patent political charge and even the ISF Captain who escorts Hannibal to court claimed Hannibal never threatened or demeaned the court.

On January 24, 2017, Judge Ghassan Khoury correctly found Hannibal not guilty of threatening the court and seeing politics corrupting the Judiciary charged the Lebanese judiciary with contempt and ordered that all charges against Hannibal Qaddafi be revoked. He declared Hannibal was innocent of the crimes attributed to him and that he was entitled to the basic right to defend himself in court.

According to Judge Khoury, “The Lebanese government has neither provided a legitimate explanation for Hannibal’s continued imprisonment and the gross violations of Hannibal’s basic human rights” according to Judge Khoury and lawyers follow his case.

Few court observers expect the new case will also be dropped or ruled on anytime soon. Hannibal according to some must be kept locked up until ransom is paid. Hannibal will most likely remain in custody pending a verdict in the parallel false case regarding his knowledge and involvement in the 1978 disappearance of Amal Movement founder Imam Musa Sadr and two companions. That trial into Gadhafi’s involvement in Sadr’s disappearance has progressed slowly after his former lawyer, Akram Azouri, quit the case in disgust four months ago accusing certain Lebanese politicians of conspiring against and corrupting the Lebanese Judiciary.

Amal leader Nabeh Berri who is significantly engaged in Hannibal’s case has according to Hannibal’s former lawyer offered to let Hannibal walk. Berri acknowledged to Hannibal via his lawyer that he is innocent of any crime but rather is himself the victim of “a stupid, botched kidnapping and torture.”

With respect to Berri’s revealed offer to Hannibal to arrange his release, before being released, Hannibal needed to do one favor.

What Berri allegedly asked of Hannibal was for him to fire his well-known human rights lawyer Boursha Khalil who along with lawyer Aisha Gadaffi, worked together on the defense team of Saadam Hussein’s politicized and much critized November 5, 2006 trial and death sentence.

Berri’s problem with Ms. Boursha Khalil is reportedly that he also claims she blew the whistle and blocked his secret $ 200,000,000 deal with the Al-Qeada affiliated Tripoli government to extradite (sell) to them Hannibal. Berri’s alleged Tripoli based “business partners” were claimed to be elements of the Al-Qaeda linked “Libya Dawn. At that time the Tripoli based Libyan government was not recognized by the UN or most of its 193 member states as the legitimate Libya government.

Nor was Berri happy when Hannibal’s lawyer Ms. Khalil filed a motion for Berri’s friend and presiding Judge, who is a Shia Muslim as is she, Berri and most of those involved in the ransom scheme, to recuse himself. The rationale behind her recusal motion was the growing perception in some quarters that ‘Shia pressure” may compromise the Judge’s objectivity so it’s better for the Court to avoid a possible conflict of interest or the public’s perception of lack of impartiality.

Not knowing the details, according to lawyer Khalil, Hannibal acceded to Berri’s offer, adding: “But Hannibal got stiffed.”

The reason is that because the problem for certain Lebanese politicians choreographing Hannibal’s court case is that it is not going to be easy for them to get their hands on the Gadaffi accounts. Few even question that they will keep trying.

A late development in this judicial abomination is that according to a 2/2/2017 report by Alexandra Valiente of Viva Libya! , “Hannibal’s health is deteriorating at an alarming rate.” According to lawyer Khalil, from the beatings Hannibal was subjected to during his December 2015 kidnapping and being brutally jammed into the trunk of a car, his injured back, knees and legs make walking and standing increasingly difficult and he requires specialized medical treatment and therapy. Medical attention was reportedly being denied in order to pressure him and his family into arranging ransom/extortion money. This observer does not credit the withholding of medical attention story and credits Lebanon’s Internal Security Force (ISF) denials which were expressed to him that Hannibal does indeed receive medical attention for his injuries and in fact is being well treated.

What makes Hannibal’s fake case and wrongful incarceration even more egregious is the fact that the politicians involved and certain sectarian affiliated members of Lebanon’s judiciary know, as do key Amal officials and plenty of others in this region, some since September 11, 1978 what had been the fate of the ‘vanished’ Imam and his companions. For financial but also political reasons, some played dumb and deceived their Shia community with annual fake reports that Imam Sadr was seen in various Libyan prisons. These theatrics and the annual August 31 “ Imam Sadr Commemoration” raised millions in donations as thousands of billboards and posters are still regularly plastered around Lebanon, trying to persuade the largely credulous Shia community that Musa Sadr was, yet again “ Recently seen in a Libya prison.”

To date all efforts of the Libyan Tribes, the Syrian government and the Gadaffi family members to obtain Hannibal’s release have failed. This sordid action against an innocent man is bringing other factors to light as it exposes the ignominy of the individuals and organizations behind this criminal hoax.

Franklin Lamb

Franklin Lamb

Franklin Lamb, a former Assistant Counsel of the US House Judiciary Committee at the US Congress and Professor of International Law at Northwestern College of Law in Oregon, earned his Law Degree at Boston University and his LLM, M.Phil, and PhD degrees at the London School of Economics. Following three summers at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Lamb was a visiting fellow at the Harvard Law School’s East Asian Legal Studies Center where he specialized in Chinese Law. He was the first westerner allowed by the government of China to visit the notorious “Ward Street” Prison in Shanghai. Lamb is doing research in Lebanon and works with the Palestine Civil Rights Campaign-Lebanon and the Sabra-Shatila Foundation. His new book, The Case for Palestinian Civil Rights in Lebanon, is due out shortly.

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