The death of Shia anti-Hezbollah activist Lokman Slim was not a random killing. It was a cold-blooded execution. The activist who denounced Hezbollah human rights violations for years and investigated closely the militant’s group’s increasing repression of its Shia popular base as well as the wider Lebanese street was found killed by four bullets to the head in the Zaharani, region, a Hezbollah bastion. His phone was found a few kilometers away, in Niha, in the South, another region under the militant group’s control.
What killed Slim was not his open criticism of Hezbollah, which had in the last few years turned Lebanon – with the tacit agreement of the corrupt Lebanese leadership – into an Iranian satellite, at the cost of its economy, its stability and its foreign relations.
Slim’s Umam Center was well known for publishing a wide array of research about the party. Nor was he killed over his overt relations with the American embassy, high American or European diplomats. What killed Slim was that he went too far into uncovering Hezbollah’s internal fabric and its intricate web-like network.
In the last few months, Slim delved into Hezbollah money laundering activities, looking into possible contacts between traders facilitating those activities for the movement, and going as far as attempting to link those with figures working with the Lebanese central bank, according to a conversation I had with him.
On Sunday 31 January, Slim asked me to pass by his office on Monday, as he wanted to discuss a sensitive topic with me that could be done only face to face. When I met him on Monday February 1, he confided that he was in contact with a business associate of Hezbollah, who was heavily involved in money laundering activities for the party and was sanctioned by the US Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC). This person, whose name he didn’t share, was ready to defect in exchange for his extraction from Lebanon and protection from Hezbollah.
Slim was asking me what was the best way to do it, given that any contact with a local foreign embassy would include the involvement of too many parties, which could lead to an intelligence leak and threaten the life of the alleged defector. The best way to handle it, he thought, was to contact directly the US State department, or the Treasury.
Three days later, ignorant that he was being followed, Slim went to the south for a dinner with friends. He disappeared a few hours later in the evening, leaving his family devastated, only to be found dead a day later. His fate had been sealed. It remains to be seen if another body – that of the mysterious defector – will surface in the next few weeks.
It is certain that no serious investigation will be led into the execution of Lokman Slim, and that the Lebanese judiciary will not bring the perpetrators to justice. Lebanese security services and its judiciary have no interest in the truth. It is a costly commodity in a country where a human life does not amount to much.