Lebanese anti-Hezbollah intellectual Lokman Slim shot dead
Lokman Slim, the founder of NGO Hayya Bina and a resident of the predominantly Shia Muslim suburb of Dahiyeh, in the outskirts of Beirut, was a vocal critic of Hezbollah's untenable political position as a political force and militant group, which has deployed fighters to the war in neighbouring Syria.
Slim, a well-respected intellectual figure in Lebanon, did not shy away from Lebanon's many taboos.
In 2004, he co-founded the Umam Documentation & Research Centre, an open archive of materials concerning Lebanon's social and political history based in the southern Beirut suburb of Haret Hreik.
The "Hangar", as it became known, became a hub for artists and intellectuals, openly addressing the controversial history of the Lebanese Civil War, which the school education system refrains from teaching.
War and memory, instead, were the object of film screenings, art exhibitions, and discussions organised at the venue.
In Baalbek, a Shia area of Lebanon on the border with Syria and a Hezbollah stronghold, Slim had spearheaded a number of social projects including Hayya Bina, devised to help boost the economy of local farmers and raise awareness on environmental issues.
The Future Movement, led MP and Former Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri, reacted to the news of the death calling it a "dishonourable assassination" and said it does not signal a "return to political killings".
Hezbollah has denied any role in the 2005 bombing that killed Hariri's father, the prominent politician Rafiq Hariri.
One man, a mid-level operative in Hezbollah identified as Salim Ayyash, was condemned by an UN-backed court for the assassination of the former Lebanese PM.
Jawad Nasrallah, the son of Hezbollah's leader, reportedly wrote on Twitter shortly after the killing: "What constitutes a loss for some is a gain for others and an unexpected blessing".
He later deleted the post and denied that it was linked to Slim's disappearance.
Hezbollah-backed media had repeatedly attacked Slim, alleging close ties with the United States, which considers Hezbollah a terrorist organisation.
In December 2019, Slim issued a statement in which he declared himself, his wife, and his organisation were the targets of intimidation and threats, pointing the finger directly at Hezbollah.
"As a preventive measure against all attacks that may be directed in the future towards me, my family or my home, I hold responsible Hassan Nasrallah and Nabih Berri," the Shia Speaker of Parliament and leader of the Amal party, he wrote on Facebook.
The statement was released after a group of men had entered the perimeter of his home, which is also the headquarter of UMAM, and sprayed death threats on its walls.
A day later, an event advocating for political neutrality vis-à-vis Israel was organised in Beirut and was crashed by violent rioters.
Slim, who was accused of advocating for the normalisation of the ties with Israel, said he had placed his home and family under the surveillance of the Lebanese army.
An investigation has been launched into the death, Judge Rahif Ramadan said in a statement.
Slim's spouse, Monika Borgmann, launched an appeal on Twitter in the early morning hours on Thursday, as Slim's silence had alarmed his family and friends.
"Lokman is not answering his phone and he has not been seen since yesterday, 8 PM. Please share any information."
The death was confirmed by security sources on Thursday morning, when he was found dead in his car in the southern region of al-Adoussiyeh with a bullet to the head.
His sister, Rasha al-Ameer, wrote on Twitter during the night that "my brother Lokman Slim left Niha al-Janoub six hours ago heading back to Beirut and he has not yet returned. He is not answering his phone. There is no trace of him in hospitals".
The Swiss embassy released a statement saying it is "deeply shocked about the assassination of Lebanese writer and activist Lokman Slim",
"In the spirit of Lokman, we will continue to advocate for unraveling the truth," the statement said.