BEIRUT (AP) — Friends, family members and diplomats on Thursday demanded “accountability” for the death of Lebanese publisher and Hezbollah critic Lokman Slim.
Slim, a 58-year-old political activist and commentator, was found dead with six bullets in his body last week on a deserted rural road in the country’s south. He was visiting friends there and was due to return to Beirut. When he did not, his family reported him missing.
“This is a barbaric act, unforgivable and unacceptable,” said U.S. ambassador Dorothy Shea, standing next to his family at the tightly-secured ceremony at Slim’s home. “Like him, let us not be deterred. We will push for what is just, we will join you in demanding accountability for this horrific crime.”
Salma Mershak, Slim’s mother and a historian, was close to her son and called on Lebanese to protect his legacy and the country.
“Weapons don’t serve the country. It didn’t serve me, it cost me my son,” said Mershak, an Egyptian who has settled in Lebanon since the 1950s. “My wish is that you use your mind, discuss and talk if you want to create a nation that Lokman deserves.”
The U.S, German and Swiss ambassadors to Lebanon also spoke at the ceremony, all demanding that those who killed the well-known researcher be brought to justice.
Andreas Kindl, the German ambassador, described Slim’s death as a “personal loss.”
“We remember Lokman today. Memory and remembrance were at the core of his work” in collaboration with his wife, Monika Borgmann, Kindl said, adding, “His legacy is that we are not allowed to forget what happened last week.”
Slim’s family has expressed skepticism that a national investigation would lead to those who killed him, citing a history of unresolved assassinations and political crimes in Lebanon. They hired a private forensic pathologist to carry out an independent examination of Slim’s body. Many of his friends have suspected Hezbollah supporters had a role in his killing, citing previous threats to the vocal critic of the powerful group.
Hezbollah condemned the killing, calling for an investigation and dismissing what it called an exploitation of crimes in Lebanon by the media and political opponents.
Slim and Borgmann founded a research and film production center, documented stories of disappearances, prisons and national trauma in Lebanon and Syria. They also kept an elaborate archive of Lebanon’s civil war history.
Slim, a Shiite, was a vocal critic of Hezbollah’s hold on power in Lebanon and its regional policies. Still, he decided to continue to live in his home, which became part of the militant group’s stronghold years after he was born.
The ceremony was organized despite a nationwide lockdown to stem the spread of coronavirus.