Lebanon and Iran urge Libyan rebels to probe 33-year-old mystery

The Guardian: Lebanon and Iran have appealed to the Libyan rebels to investigate the fate of Moussa al-Sadr, a Shia religious leader who went missing after a flight to Tripoli in August 1978.

With Gaddafi’s regime on the brink of collapse, officials in Iran and Lebanon have expressed hope that the mystery surrounding the charismatic Iranian-born Lebanese scholar might finally be brought to an end.

Sadr, a moderate philosopher who would be 83 if still alive, disappeared along with his two companions after they went to Libya for a meeting with government officials. Iran and Lebanon have long blamed Sadr’s disappearance on the Libyan leader.

Libya denied any responsibility over their disappearance and claimed that Sadr departed for Italy after the Libyan visit. Italian officials denied they ever arrived. There has been no news of Sadr since then, although his family have always believed that the Shia figure is still alive in a Libyan prison.

However, Abdel Moneim al-Houni, a former Libyan ambassador to the Arab League who joined the rebels, said in a recent interview with the London-based Arabian newspaper, Al-Hayat, that Sadr had been killed by Gaddafi’s regime and buried in southern Libya.

Since he went missing, Sadr, who is known as Imam Moussa Sadr in Iran and founded Lebanon’s first prominent Shia political movement, has become a revered icon for Shia communities in both Iran and Lebanon, especially among supporters of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

His family issued a statement this week on the anniversary of his disappearance. “We appeal to those who will take over in Libya after the collapse of the tyrant to give special attention to this case,” Sadr’s family said in a statement addressed to the rebels.

Lebanon’s English-language newspaper, the Daily Star, also quoted the Lebanese foreign minister as saying: “When things become clear, we will make relentless efforts with relevant people in Libya to reveal the fate of Imam Sadr and his companions.”

He added: “Lebanon has never abandoned efforts for one moment to determine his fate and that of his companions and there is a chance now to discover new things.”

Hezbollah have also issued a separate statement. It said: “We are full of hope that they will be freed by your hands and returned to their families.”

In Iran, government-sponsored media organisations and even opposition newspapers have called on Libyan rebels to uncover Sadr’s fate.

The speaker of the parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policies, Kazem Jalali, told the Iranian reformist newspaper Etemaad: “We believe that [Sadr] is still alive and is held captive by Gaddafi’s government. Gaddafi has repeatedly lied about his case to the international community … We hope to see him in good health in the next days and we hope he joins his family once again.”

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