Family of Lebanese activist wants to know if he was tortured

BEIRUT (AP) — The family of a prominent Lebanese publisher and harsh critic of the Shiite militant Hezbollah group who was shot dead said Friday they want a forensic doctor they hired to determine whether he was tortured before he was killed.

The development came amid much speculation that the 58-year-old Lokman Slim was alive for several hours before he was shot several times at close range. He was found in his car in southern Lebanon on Thursday with multiple gunshot wounds.

The brazen killing sparked fears of a return to political violence in this country gripped by social and economic upheaval.

The longtime Shiite political activist and researcher went missing on Wednesday night after a trip south to visit friends. The Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV and some local Lebanese TV stations have reported that Slim may have been tortured while local officials speculated that bruises on his face indicate he was punched before he was killed.

Lebanese security forces found Slim’s car on a rural road near the southern village of Addoussieh, in Sidon province. He was heading back to Beirut in the evening after his visit.

On Friday, his body was brought from the southern city of Sidon to the American University Medical Center in Beirut.

Slim’s family has dismissed a handwritten report by the coroner who was at the scene Thursday when the body was found. The coroner said there were six bullets in the body — three to the head, one in the chest and one in the back. It was not known if the report had any mention of bruising.

“We have asked a private doctor” to examine Slim’s body, his sister, Rasha al-Ameer, told the local LBC TV station. The family, she said, wants to “find out how much they tortured him before killing him.”

Al-Ameer on Thursday offered a veiled accusation against Hezbollah, without naming the group, and repeated it on Friday, saying that “it is known who controls” the area where her brother was found dead.

“We want to know what happened to him during the three hours before he was killed,” she added.

Hezbollah has condemned Slim’s killing and called for a swift investigation. It also urged security agencies to combat crimes it said have spread around Lebanon and which have been “exploited politically and by the media at the expense of security and domestic stability” — a jab at their critics.

Perpetrators of political violence or corruption are almost never identified or prosecuted in Lebanon. With rising tension amid deepening political dispute and economic crisis, officials have warned of a return of violence and assassinations.

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