BEIRUT: A prominent Lebanese activist and intellectual known for his opposition to the Shiite movement Hezbollah was found dead in his car in the country’s south on Thursday, a security official said.
Lokman Slim, 58, had long been a leading secular voice in the Shiite community and was routinely targeted for criticism, and often threatened, over his anti-Hezbollah stance.“He was found dead in his car, killed by a bullet to the head,” a senior security official told AFP on condition of anonymity. Lebanese media also reported Slim’s death.
Security sources did not immediately elaborate on the circumstances of his death but Slim’s own sister said before his death was even confirmed that his disappearance was inevitably linked to his opinions.
“He had a political stance, why else would he have been kidnapped,” Rasha al-Ameer told AFP.
Slim was often criticised by Hezbollah supporters for being instrumentalised by the United States.
Lebanese social media erupted over the murder, on which many were already commenting as the latest in the long list of Lebanon’s political assassinations.
Slim had founded an organisation called Umam Documentation and Research aimed at archiving Lebanon’s violent past with the aim of raising awareness and preventing further conflict.Interior Minister Mohammed Fahmi, quoted in local media, called Slim’s killing a “horrible crime”.
The secular intellectual and pro-democracy activist had made several documentary films with his wife Monika Borgmann and also worked in publishing.
When a cross-sectarian pro-democracy protest movement was still gathering daily and occupying parts of central Beirut in late 2019, thugs loyal to Hezbollah and the other main Shiite party Amal were involved in several violent incidents.
They beat up protesters and in one instance in December that year plastered messages on the walls of Slim’s Beirut home calling him a traitor and warning that his “time will come”.
Slim said at the time that he would lay the blame squarely on the leaders of Hezbollah and Amal, Hassan Nasrallah and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri respectively, should anything happen to him or his family.
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.
What was one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history was caused by a years-old stock of highly explosive ammonium nitrate in a port warehouse.
Yet the reasons for its presence have yet to be elucidated and Lebanon’s own investigation into the tragedy appears to be completely stalled.
Hezbollah’s enemies have pointed a finger at the Shiite militia’s influence over Lebanese customs and port security following the explosion.
According to a judicial official, the prosecutor tasked with investigating the blast started looking into possible connections to Syrian businessmen this week.
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”.