Lebanon‘s caretaker interior minister said Slim died in “a terrifying crime” , which he called “an assassination”. “Killing is the only language they are fluent in,” his sister Rasha said in reference to Hezbollah . “His murder is a very big loss for Lebanon, for culture,” Hazem Saghieh, a well-known Lebanese journalist said. “He was one of a few who only knew how to speak his mind.”
Beirut – Lokman Slim, a prominent Lebanese Shiite publisher who criticised Iran-backed Hezbollah, was found shot dead in a car in southern Lebanon on Thursday, two security sources and his family said.
A judge following the case said the body of Lokman Slim had four bullets in the head and one in the back, in the first such killing of a known activist in years.
One of the security sources also said Slim, who ran a research centre and made films, was shot in the head. The second said Slim’s phone was found earlier on the side of a road.
They said the motive was not immediately clear.
Slim, in his late 50s, was a leading Shiite voice who spoke against what he saw as Hezbollah‘s intimidation tactics and accused them of intolerance of other political views.
He was last seen after leaving the house of a poet friend on Wednesday night. His family said he went missing overnight. His wife tweeted that he was not answering his phone.
A relative said they found out about his death from a news alert while at a police station to report his disappearance.
Lebanon‘s caretaker interior minister told local media Slim died in “a terrifying crime” and pledged to pursue the case, which he called “an assassination”.
Shocked, saddened by assassination of #Lokman_Slim, vocal Lebanese Shiite critic of Hezbollah & courageous man of integrity. Huge loss for Lebanon, human rights. Last intved him in 2018, remember his 1st line: “Today Hezbollah's in a kind of hubris state”: https://t.co/LXHmU9LPuH— leela jacinto (@leelajacinto) February 4, 2021
At the family home in the southern suburbs of Beirut, where Shiite Hezbollah has a dominant presence, family members sat in shock. Some wept in silence.
“What a big loss. And they lost a noble enemy too…It’s rare for someone to argue with them and live among them with respect,” his sister Rasha told reporters on Thursday.
She said he had not spoken of any recent threats and tried to keep his family from worrying.
“Killing is the only language they are fluent in,” she said. “I don’t know how we will go on with our work…It will be hard.”
Slim had made documentaries with his wife and led efforts to build an archive on Lebanon’s sectarian 1975-1990 civil war.
His criticism of Hezbollah faced rebuke from supporters of the heavily armed movement, who sometimes called him “an embassy Shiite,” accusing him of being a tool of the United States.
Washington, which classifies Hezbollah as terrorist, has ramped up sanctions against its officials and allies in Lebanon, part of a pressure campaign against Tehran.
Hezbollah did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Slim founded a nonprofit to promote civil liberties, which had received a grant under the US Middle East Partnership Initiative and worked with an American think tank, leaked Wikileaks diplomatic cables said in 2008.
In a recent interview on Saudi’s al-Hadath TV, Slim said he believed Hezbollah has a role in the port blast that ripped through Beirut in August, killing 200 people and injuring thousands.
In late 2019, Slim said his family home and offices were targeted by people gathering in the garden, chanting slurs and threats. His statement held Hezbollah’s leader responsible.
At the time, Slim also said he had received death threats after speaking in a debate at a Beirut camp that was set up as protests against all the country’s political leaders swept Lebanon.
“His murder is a very big loss for Lebanon, for culture,” Hazem Saghieh, a well-known Lebanese journalist said. “He was one of a few who only knew how to speak his mind.”
Slim, one of the most prominent Lebanese intellectuals to be gunned down since historian Samir Kassir in 2005, was born in Beirut in 1962 and studied in France towards the end of the 1975-1990 civil war.
His murder comes as Lebanon marked six months since a devastating blast at Beirut port killed more than 200 people and ravaged entire neighbourhoods of the capital.
The United Nations envoy to Lebanon Jan Kubis wrote that he was saddened by Slim’s murder, describing him as “an honest independent voice of courage”.
He also said that, unlike the port blast, Slim’s murder should be investigated in a “speedy and transparent way”.