Hannibal Gaddafi is in hunger strike in a Lebanese prison

StarAvis Desk
StarAvis Desk
11 Min Read
Eight years of detention: Gaddafi's unresolved imprisonment in Lebanon following abduction by militants. Getty image

Hannibal Gaddafi, son of Ex-Libyan leader, protests injustice with a prolonged hunger strike in Lebanese prison

The health condition of Hannibal Gaddafi, the youngest son of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, has been steadily declining ever since he initiated a hunger strike to protest his prolonged imprisonment without trial in a Lebanese jail.

At 47 years old, Hannibal has been experiencing muscle spasms, dizziness, headaches, and worsening of pre-existing spinal and hip issues due to the hunger strike, as confirmed by one of his lawyers who spoke to Al Jazeera on Thursday. It has been six days since he began the hunger strike, and a doctor has been monitoring his health on a daily basis.

Held at the headquarters of the Internal Security Forces in Beirut since 2015, Hannibal is detained in connection with the disappearance of prominent Lebanese Shia imam Moussa al-Sadr during a trip to Tripoli, Libya, in 1978. Notably, Hannibal was merely three years old at the time of the incident.

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Imam al-Sadr, a co-founder of the Shia political party known as the Amal Movement, was believed to have vanished due to Muammar Gaddafi’s involvement, as per Lebanon’s accusations.

Following the fall of Tripoli and his father’s demise at the hands of opposition fighters in 2011, Hannibal sought refuge in Algeria alongside his wife and some of his siblings. Subsequently, they obtained political asylum in Syria under the government of Bashar al-Assad.

Abducted and confined

Controversial kidnapping and alleged involvement of political figures unveiled in Hannibal Gaddafi’s case.

Hannibal Gaddafi’s lawyers have revealed that in 2015, he was enticed to the Syrian-Lebanese border under the guise of a newspaper interview but was instead abducted and transported to Lebanon by a group seeking answers regarding the disappearance of al-Sadr.

Hannibal’s legal team asserts that the abduction was orchestrated by Hassan Yaakoub, a former parliamentarian representing Hezbollah, the prominent Shia political party in Lebanon with Iranian backing. Yaakoub’s father and journalist Abbas Bader el-Dine had accompanied al-Sadr on the ill-fated trip to Libya, both of whom vanished mysteriously.

During his captivity, Hannibal appeared in a televised video on December 11, 2015, aired by Lebanon’s Al Jadeed television channel. In the video, he bore visible signs of physical abuse with black eyes and a bruised nose. Despite the ordeal, Hannibal claimed to be in “good health” and implored individuals possessing information about al-Sadr’s disappearance to step forward.

Sources indicate that Hannibal was allegedly seized by individuals associated with the Amal Movement. However, he was eventually released in the city of Baalbek the day after the video surfaced and was subsequently taken to Beirut under the custody of Lebanese authorities.

On December 17 of the same year, Yaakoub was detained on suspicion of involvement in the kidnapping. Although he was later granted bail, Yaakoub vehemently denies any participation in Hannibal’s abduction.

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Global efforts for the liberation of Hannibal Gaddafi

Despite the longstanding animosity between Lebanon and Libya fueled by al-Sadr’s disappearance, the efforts to secure the release of Hannibal have faced continuous setbacks.

Immediately following his arrest, Syria made a request for his extradition based on his political asylum status in their country. However, the Lebanese courts rejected the request, citing the absence of any criminal charges against Hannibal in Syria.

In 2016, a Lebanese judge charged Hannibal with withholding information related to al-Sadr’s disappearance, prompted by a lawsuit filed by the imam’s family alleging his involvement.

Throughout his eight-year imprisonment, Hannibal has changed legal representation multiple times, navigating the often-politicized and slow-moving Lebanese judicial system.

In 2018, he was sentenced to 18 months in prison for “insulting” the Lebanese judiciary, alongside a one-year travel ban. Despite reports of potential negotiations for his release, these efforts ultimately yielded no substantial progress.

“One of the reasons behind his hunger strike is to draw public and government attention to his true situation,” one of Hannibal’s lawyers shared with Al Jazeera. “Feeling forgotten, he has resorted to a hunger strike as he can no longer endure the circumstances,” the lawyer added, shedding light on Hannibal’s motivation.

Answers regarding the disappearance of the Imam

Support for Hannibal Gaddafi in Lebanon remains limited, predominantly stemming from a few voices that are either pro-Syrian or anti-Shia. The pressure to keep him incarcerated persists, particularly among influential Shia parties within the country.

On the 44th anniversary of al-Sadr’s disappearance on August 31, 2022, Yaakoub, during a press conference, dismissed discussions about the legality of Hannibal’s arrest and his young age at the time of his father’s alleged crime, stating that it is an ongoing offense as he is the son of a dictator. Yaakoub emphasized that the imam, his father, and the journalist were subjected to unjust and aggressive treatment, urging Hannibal’s siblings to secure their freedom by providing evidence and documentation.

Amal leader Nabih Berri commented that al-Sadr’s disappearance transcended the targeting of the imam and his companions, asserting that it aimed at Lebanon’s spiritual values represented by the imam both historically and presently.

Hannibal’s involvement in his father’s regime remains unclear. He gained more notoriety for his extravagant and flamboyant lifestyle, often captured in photographs at lavish parties and on yachts worldwide. Leaked US embassy cables from 2011 described his history of “unseemly behavior and public scuffles.”

One such incident occurred in 2008 when Hannibal and his Lebanese wife, Aline Skaf, were arrested in a luxury Geneva hotel, accused of assaulting two employees. The case was later dropped by Geneva’s prosecutor after the Gaddafi family reached a settlement with the workers, who withdrew their complaint, leading to a diplomatic dispute between Libya and Switzerland.

Suffering for his name

Hannibal Gaddafi’s recently appointed legal team has revealed their plans to bring his case to the international stage, seeking assistance from “humanitarian associations” in their pursuit of justice.

Hannibal Gaddafi observes elite military training in Zlitan, Libya, amidst political unrest.
Hannibal Gaddafi observes elite military training in Zlitan, Libya, amidst political unrest. (AP Photo/Abdel Magid al-Fergany)

Throughout his ordeal, Hannibal has consistently maintained his innocence. In 2022, he expressed his bewilderment in a letter broadcasted on Saudi TV Al Hadath, questioning how a toddler could possess any knowledge regarding the whereabouts of the imam.

While acknowledging the sensitivity and longstanding nature of al-Sadr’s case, Hannibal’s lawyer emphasized that innocent individuals cannot be unjustly confined. “He is an innocent person, and his only crime is that he is the son of Gaddafi. Other than that, he hasn’t done anything,” the lawyer asserted, highlighting the unjust consequences of Hannibal’s familial association.

An analysis of the news

The news article sheds light on the situation surrounding Hannibal Gaddafi, the son of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who is currently detained in a Lebanese prison. The analysis of the news can be summarized as follows:

  1. Hannibal’s Legal Team and International Efforts: Hannibal has recently acquired a new legal team that aims to take his case to the international arena with the support of humanitarian associations. This indicates a shift in strategy to seek justice beyond the confines of Lebanon’s judicial system.
  2. Hannibal’s Maintained Innocence: Throughout his detention, Hannibal has consistently claimed his innocence. In a letter broadcasted on Saudi TV, he questioned how a young child like him could possess any knowledge about the disappearance of the imam. This assertion reflects his belief that he is being unjustly held accountable for a crime he did not commit.
  3. The Plight of Innocence: Hannibal’s lawyer emphasizes that his only crime is being the son of Gaddafi, highlighting the unjust consequences of his familial association. The article implies that Hannibal’s imprisonment is driven by political motivations and not based on evidence of his involvement in any wrongdoing.
  4. Limited Support and Political Pressure: The news suggests that there is little support for Hannibal in Lebanon, primarily due to pro-Syrian voices or anti-Shia figures. It is also mentioned that powerful Shia parties exert pressure to keep him behind bars. This indicates the complex political dynamics at play, potentially influencing the handling of Hannibal’s case.
  5. Seeking International Attention: Hannibal’s legal team’s decision to take the case to the international stage indicates their pursuit of justice beyond Lebanon. By involving humanitarian associations, they aim to raise awareness about Hannibal’s situation and potentially garner support for his release.

Overall, the analysis highlights the ongoing struggle faced by Hannibal Gaddafi, who maintains his innocence while being held in a Lebanese prison. The article underscores the challenges he faces due to his familial association and suggests the need for international attention to address his case.


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