Libya-Lebanon: Hannibal Gaddafi ends his silence

By Jihâd Gillon
Posted on Friday, 2 September 2022 15:40

Hannibal Gaddafi in Copenhagen, Denmark, 16 February 2005. © NTB SCANPIX/SIPA

Detained in Lebanon since 2015, Muammar Gaddafi’s fourth son Hannibal Gaddafi has ended his silence. His release continues to be negotiated behind the scenes.

“How could a two-year-old child know Musa Sadr’s whereabouts?” This was one of the questions that the younger Gaddafi asked in a letter relayed by the Saudi channel Al Hadath on 25 August.

As southern Lebanon prepares for the ceremonies commemorating the Lebanese Shiite Imam’s disappearance on 31 August 1978, some observers believe that these statements have been broadcasted because Hannibal will soon be released.

He has been detained in Lebanon since 2015. A refugee in Syria after his father’s death, he says he was abducted there by members of the Lebanese Yacoub family. The Shiite dignitary Mohammed Yacoub disappeared in the same circumstances as Moussa Sadr, whom he had accompanied to Libya in 1978. His son, Hassan Yacoub, was accused in 2016 by the Lebanese judiciary of having taken part in Hannibal’s kidnapping in Syria. The latter was indicted on 14 December 2015 for concealing information about the disappearance of Sadr, founder of the Lebanese Shiite party Amal.

Hannibal, who points to his age at the time of the events as proof of his innocence, claims that his father did not meet Sadr when he came to Tripoli, as Muammar was in his home town of Sirte at the time. He is therefore trying to exonerate his father, the number one suspect in this case, and claims that Sadr disappeared in Rome, where he was travelling to after his Libyan stay. The son of the former Libyan dictator also indicated that Abdessalam Jelloud, the former prime minister in charge of the Lebanese dossier according to Hannibal, welcomed Sadr in Tripoli before his disappearance.

Gaddafi’s son asserts that the Lebanese judge Hassan al-Chami, rapporteur of the national committee in charge of following up the case, listened to the testimonies of Jelloud, as well as Libyan officials from his father’s era, but did not obtain any information regarding Sadr’s disappearance.

Today, Hannibal denounces a “political detention and blackmail” and accuses the Lebanese judge of having presented him as a former head of Libyan maritime intelligence.

He claims that he never exercised security functions within the Libyan state apparatus. His accusers say his denials are implausible, arguing that he would definitely have access to sensitive files as the son of the country’s strongman.

Held at the headquarters of the Lebanese Internal Security Forces, Muammar’s son says that his captors illegally brought him across the Syrian-Lebanese border and held him for several days in leg irons. Hannibal was tortured and asked for a ransom in exchange for his release, before being handed over to the Lebanese authorities.

Hannibal’s lawyer, Yasser Hassan, denounced “complicity” between the kidnappers and parts of the state. Hannibal has also called for a trial in the presence of representatives from the international community and human rights organisations.

It is difficult to predict Hannibal’s release for which “negotiations have been going on for months”

According to our information, his brother Seif el-Islam Gaddafi is following the situation closely. The Franco-Iraqui Souha al-Bedri, one of Seif el-Islam’s communicators abroad, told us that Hannibal’s release is “imminent”.

She assures us that Hannibal will be released once his $150,000 bail has been paid to the Lebanese justice system and that he will then have to remain in Lebanon pending his trial.

However, others close to the Gaddafi clan are more circumspect. Mohammed Jamil Derbah, a Lebanese businessman based in the Canary Islands who has connections within the Lebanese political class, doubts that Hannibal will be released before 31 August, the anniversary of Sadr’s disappearance.

With a sulphurous past – and “far away” he says – with the British gangster John Palmer, the Lebanese man has been in charge of restoring Seif el-Islam Gaddafi’s image for a few months.

For his part, the Franco-Algerian consultant Tayeb Benabderrahmane feels it is difficult to predict Hannibal’s release for which “negotiations have been going on for months.”

The former adviser of Seif el-Islam, who is now focused on his legal battle with Qatar, says: “Several states, including Turkey, have tried to intervene, but it is blocked at the highest level of Hezbollah and Amal.”

However, Derbah says: “Lebanon is in the midst of negotiations to distribute ministerial posts, this configuration is favourable to put pressure on Amal and Hezbollah.”

Nabih Berri, the indestructible president of the Lebanese Parliament and leader of Amal since Sadr’s disappearance, would be the main obstacle to Hannibal’s release.

Hannibal’s case has been at the heart of a rocky affair involving former French president Nicolas Sarkozy; Michèle Marchand, who looked after the image of the Bruni-Sarkozy and Macron presidential couples; and French businessman Noël Dubus. Since the summer of 2021, the French justice system has suspected Dubus of having tried to monetise Hannibal’s release with Lebanese judges in order to obtain statements and archives exonerating Sarkozy.

The latter is accused of having received illegal Libyan funding for his 2007 campaign. According to al-Bedri, Dubus, with whom she claims to be in contact, is still involved in the operation to free Hannibal Gaddafi.

We have not been able to obtain confirmation of this information from the person concerned. Frequently presented as a swindler and mythomaniac, he defended himself in May to our Radio France colleagues, to whom he assured us that he knows where exclusive documents are located that could potentially raise the issue of the 2007 campaign financing. Whether or not Hannibal will be released soon, the name Gaddafi has a knack for attracting people in troubled waters.

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