Tributes as funeral held for slain Lebanese publisher Lokman Slim

Lokman Slim was found with six bullets in his body in his car last week, his death sparking fears of nationwide unrest.

Lokman Slim memorial service
Activists hold up pieces of paper with the words in Arabic, 'zero fear' during the memorial service to pay tribute to Lokman Slim, a Shia publisher and activist who was found dead in his car, in Beirut, Lebanon on February 11, 2021 [Mohamed Azakir/Reuters]

Mourners have attended the funeral of a slain Lebanese publisher and outspoken Hezbollah critic whose murder last week provoked a public outcry.

Lokman Slim was found dead with six bullets in his body last week on a deserted rural road in the country’s south, in the first high-profile killing in Lebanon in years that sparked fears of a new wave of political violence amid deepening social and economic turmoil.

Thursday’s memorial service took place at Slim’s family home in the southern suburbs of the capital, Beirut, with relatives, friends and diplomats in attendance.

“Weapons don’t serve the country. They didn’t serve me, they cost me my son,” Salma Mershak, Slim’s mother and an historian, said at the ceremony, calling people to protect his legacy and the country from descending into violence.

Family members of Lokman Slim, a Shia publisher and activist, are pictured during a gathering to pay tribute to him, one week after he was found dead in his car, in Beirut, Lebanon on February 11, 2021 [Mohamed Azakir/Reuters]

The United States ambassador to Lebanon, who was present at the ceremony including ambassadors from Canada, the United Kingdom and other countries, demanded that those who killed the activist be brought to justice.

“This is a barbaric act, unforgivable and unacceptable,” said Dorothy Shea. “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.”

Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr, reporting from the funeral, said while the authorities had promised a “swift” response, there has so far been no development in the case.

“People here, including his family, say they are not expecting any results any time soon – because there is little faith in the judiciary and the security agencies in the country,” she said.

The family has hired a private forensic pathologist to carry out an independent examination of Slim’s body. Many of his friends have reportedly suspected Hezbollah supporters had a role in his killing, citing previous threats to the vocal critic of the powerful Shia Muslim group.

But Hezbollah has denied any role in the murder, accusing its political and ideological opponents of exploiting the brazen killing for political gain.

The group has called for an open investigation, while it said in a statement that those trying to implicate the group in Slim’s killing with no evidence should be prosecuted “because they aim to incite chaos”.

Slim, a Shia, was a leading voice criticising Hezbollah and was regularly attacked in local media by people believed to be supporters of the group.

“I feel like his killing was not just targeting him [Slim] alone, but pluralism and the diversity in the Shia community,” independent researcher Cilina Nasser told Al Jazeera at the memorial.

“He gave young people the tools to invest in history,” researcher Nazir Ghanem said, adding that people who invest in “dogma and ideology found him annoying … and that is why he was killed”.

Slim, with his wife Monika Borgmann, co-founded a research and film production centre that documented stories of prison, disappearances and national trauma in Syria and Lebanon. They also kept an elaborate archive of Lebanon’s civil war history.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies