Hannibal Gadhafi, son of ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, watches an elite military unit exercise in Zlitan, Libya, on September 25, 2011. Image Credit: AP file

BEIRUT: A son of Libya’s late leader Muammar Gaddafi, who has been held in Lebanon for more than seven years, began a hunger strike on Saturday to protest his detention without trial, his lawyer said.

Hannibal Gaddafi has been held in Lebanon since 2015 after he was kidnapped from neighbouring Syria where he had been living as a political refugee. He was abducted by Lebanese militants demanding information about the fate of a Shiite cleric who went missing in Libya 45 years ago.

Gaddafi was later taken by Lebanese authorities and has been held in a Beirut jail without trial.

Attorney Paul Romanos told The Associated Press that his client started the hunger strike Saturday morning and “he is serious and will continue with it until the end.” Romanos did not go into details of the case as he was not authorised to speak about it to the media.

Gaddafi issued a statement describing his conditions.

“How can a political prisoner be held without a fair trial all these years?” Gaddafi, who is married to a Lebanese woman, wrote in his statement.

Sore point in Lebanon

The Libyan citizen added that now that he is on hunger strike, “those who are treating me unjustly” will be responsible for the results. He added that “the time has come to liberate the law from the hands of politicians.”

Romanos said his client suffers from back pain due to being held in a small cell for years without being able to move or exercise.

The disappearance of prominent Lebanese Shiite cleric Moussa Al Sadr in 1978 has been a long-standing sore point in Lebanon. The cleric’s family believes he may still be alive in a Libyan prison, though most Lebanese presume Al Sadr is dead. He would be 94 years old.

Al Sadr was the founder of a Shiite political and military group that took part in the lengthy Lebanese civil war that began in 1975, largely pitting Muslims against Christians.

Born in the Iranian holy city of Qom, Al Sadr came to Lebanon in 1959 to work for the rights of Shiites in the southern port town of Tyre. In 1974, a year before Lebanon’s 15-year civil war broke out, Al Sadr founded the Movement of the Deprived, attracting thousands of followers.

The following year, he established the military wing Amal — Arabic for “hope” and an acronym for the militia’s Arabic name, the Lebanese Resistance Brigades — which later fought in Lebanon’s civil war.

The group is headed by Lebanon’s powerful Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.

Since Al Sadr’s disappearance, Libya has maintained that the cleric and his two traveling companions left Tripoli in 1978 on a flight to Rome and suggested he was a victim of a power struggle among Shiites.

Most of Al Sadr’s followers are convinced that Muammar Gaddafi ordered Al Sadr killed in a dispute over Libyan payments to Lebanese militias.

The Libyan leader was killed by opposition fighters in 2011, ending his four-decade rule of the north African country. Even after his death, Al Sadr’s fate is still unknown.

Hannibal Gaddafi was born two years before Al Sadr disappeared. He fled to Algeria after Tripoli fell, along with his mother and several other relatives. He later ended up in Syria where he was given political asylum before being kidnapped and brought to Lebanon.