Moussa al-Sadr: Clues Across the Sahara
Published Tuesday, March 27, 2012
High-level Lebanese sources revealed to Al-Akhbar that the Lebanese government recently obtained detailed and precise information from Libyan authorities concerning the fate of the disappeared Shia Imam Moussa al-Sadr.
These sources confirmed that the new Libyan government began investigating human rights abuses by Gaddafi’s regime soon after its overthrow last August.
According to the sources, this has already led to uncovering the fate of Libyan dissident and former Foreign Minister Mansour al-Kakhia.
A recent inquiry has established that al-Kakhia was transferred to Libya by Gaddafi’s secret agents. He had disappeared in Cairo in 1993 and was thought to have vanished in Egypt.
Official documents and testimonies uncovered following the uprising show that al-Kakhia arrived in Tobruk a few days after he disappeared. Waiting for him there was Abdallah Senussi, the then head of Libyan intelligence who had been detained 10 days earlier in Mauritania.
Al-Kakhia was transferred to Abu Salim prison in Tripoli, notorious for its cruelty and the savage treatment of prisoners during the Gaddafi era. It seems he remained alive into the 1990s, but his body has not been found yet.
The authoritative sources are making this information known due to its significance in relation to the case of al-Sadr, founder of the Higher Shiite Council in Lebanon, who disappeared in Libya on 31 August 1978.
They relayed information from sources in the Libyan administration who say that al-Sadr’s case was part of an investigation of the fate of about 23,700 disappeared individuals during Gaddafi’s reign.
The Lebanese sources say that authorities here received information from the Libyans that confirmed the following:
1) Al-Sadr disappeared in Libya on 31 August 1978 and remained there. He was detained in Tripoli along with his companions, Sheikh Muhammad Yaacoub, and the journalist Abbas Badreddine.
They were then transferred to a secret location in the south of the country that was directly loyal to Gaddafi.
2) For reasons unknown until now, al-Sadr was transferred back to Abu Salim prison sometime in 1997. He suffered from diabetes but remained alive.
3) He was put in solitary confinement and handled by Abdel Hamid al-Saeh, an official in Gaddafi’s secret service.
Al-Saeh was notorious for his cruelty, having served as head of the Revolutionary Guard, commander of the anti-terrorism department in the secret service, and warden of Abu Salim prison.
The sources add that al-Sadr’s cell was directly below al-Saeh’s office and constantly guarded by two of his men.
4) The guards were recently interrogated by Libyan authorities who documented their statements.
5) During his stay in Abu Salim, al-Sadr started showing symptoms related to diabetes. He was denied treatment or his regular medication. This led to his death due on an unknown date, probably in the early 2000s.
6) When al-Sadr died, Gaddafi ordered that his body should not be buried and should instead remain in the prison cell.
It was later put in a morgue-type fridge and remained under guard for another 10 years, under Gaddafi’s orders.
The two guards remained on duty through the events of 17 February 2011 that led to the regime’s fall.
7) While Tripoli fell to the rebels on 22 August 2011, Abu Salim was heavily shelled.
The bombing targeted the location of Abdul Hamid’s office above al-Sadr’s cell.
The electricity supply was cut off due to the bombing and the prison cell was destroyed completely.
The information received says that al-Sadr’s body was carried to the prison yard along with those killed in the assault.
8) The revolutionaries entered Tripoli after several days of chaos in the capital, especially in the regime’s military and security complexes. When officials from the revolutionary groups reached Abu Salim, they found that the bodies had been transferred to an unknown location.
Preliminary investigations about the whereabouts of al-Sadr’s body began to uncover a number of leads. His body was thought to have been transferred to the central hospital in Tripoli. This was discovered to be untrue.
According to a different account of the fall of Tripoli, the bodies remained in the prison yard for several days. Those that were not identified by family members were carried away and buried in different locations.
This narrows down the possible location of al-Sadr’s body to a few places, currently being searched.
9) There is no information yet on the fate of Yacoub and Badreddine, although the Libyan sources have indicated that this issue is still under investigation.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.