Qaddafi Son Arrested by Lebanon in New Twist on Missing Imam Mystery – Hwaida Saad, Rick Gladstone/New York Times
Poster depicting the missing Imam and his two companion
BEIRUT, Lebanon — A flamboyant son of Libya’s deposed leader was interrogated and formally arrested by Lebanon’s judiciary on Monday, accused of withholding information about the unsolved 1978 disappearance of a revered Lebanese Shiite cleric and two companions in Libya.
The formal arrest of Hannibal Qaddafi, youngest son of Col. Moammar el-Qaddafi, signaled an intriguing turn in a cold-case mystery that has transfixed the Shiite world for nearly four decades.
It came four days after Lebanese news services said the son had been abducted by Lebanese militants who are followers of the missing cleric, Moussa al-Sadr, one of the most respected Shiite religious figures in the Middle East.
The militants forced Mr. Qaddafi to recite a statement on television last Friday affirming the justness of their cause, then released him into the temporary custody of Lebanon’s intelligence and judicial branches, where the unsolved case of the missing cleric suddenly and unexpectedly appears to have been revived.
Details of precisely how and where Mr. Qaddafi was abducted — as well as who abducted him — remain unclear. Also unclear is the whereabouts of his wife, Aline Skaf, a Lebanese lingerie model.
Imam Musa al-Sadr, Lebanese shia spiritual leader and source of inspiration for Hezbollah
The couple, once known for drama-filled debauchery and unpaid bills in European hotels, had been thought to be living in Algeria since the overthrow and death of Colonel Qaddafi during the tumultuous Libyan revolution of 2011 that ended Colonel Qaddafi’s prolonged and oppressive rule.
Lebanese news reports, quoting unidentified sources, said Mr. Qaddafi was abducted in Syria and brought to Lebanon. Those accounts could not be corroborated.
Mr. Sadr, a hero of Lebanon’s poor Shiite population, disappeared in 1978 along with two Lebanese companions, Sheikh Mohammad Yacoub and Abbas Badreddine, a journalist, during a visit to Libya at the invitation of Colonel Qaddafi, the erratic dictator who was then heavily invested in financing militant movements in the region.
Many Lebanese believe that the three visitors were secretly imprisoned and killed on orders of Colonel Qaddafi, but their bodies were never found. Colonel Qaddafi and his subordinates denied such accusations and said the three disappeared after they had left Libya for Italy.
Mr. Qaddafi, 40, one of at least eight children fathered by Colonel Qaddafi, would have been a toddler at the time, raising questions about what he could possibly know of the mystery.
Nonetheless, Lebanese news services reported Monday that Magistrate Zaher Hamadeh from the Ministry of Justice issued a formal arrest warrant for him, after having questioned him for much of the day, on charges of withholding information about the unsolved case.
It is not known how long the Lebanese authorities intend to keep Mr. Qaddafi or whether they might extradite him to Libya, where at least three of his brothers died in the 2011 revolution and another was sentenced to death in July.
Hassan Yacoub, a former Lebanese lawmaker who is a son of Sheikh Yacoub, said Monday in a telephone interview that many Lebanese had welcomed the abduction and arrest of Mr. Qaddafi, which could provide new leads in a mystery that remains an unhealed wound.
“I don’t say that Hannibal was directly involved in this case, since he was a kid,” Mr. Yacoub said, “but he’s the son of Moammar el-Qaddafi, and we know how important his children were in the leadership back then.”
What is most important, he said, is that Colonel Qaddafi’s son “is now with the Lebanese authorities and the file has been reactivated.”
Details of what Mr. Qaddafi said in the interrogation were not publicly disclosed. But Mr. Yacoub said he had learned from sources close to the investigation that Mr. Qaddafi had implicated his father’s former right-hand man, Abdel Salam Jalloud, in the case. Mr. Jalloud abandoned the Qaddafi government in August 2011, a few months before the end. His whereabouts is unknown.
According to Mr. Yacoub, Mr. Qaddafi also revealed the names of two men who masqueraded as Mr. Yacoub’s father and Mr. Sadr while staying at a Holiday Inn in Italy in the days after their visit to Libya presumably had ended. Mr. Yacoub said these impersonators were part of an apparent plot to convey the false narrative that they disappeared after having left Libya.