5 December 2012

Libya: Mansour Al-Kikhia Buried in Benghazi

Tripoli — Late Foreign Minister Mansour al-Kikhia honoured in a memorial service in Tripoli before formally laid to rest in his hometown.

Libyan dissident Mansour al-Kikhia was buried on Monday (December 3rd) at the al-Hawari graveyard in Benghazi nearly two decades after his disappearance.

He served as foreign minister and United Nations ambassador under the Kadhafi regime before joining the ranks of the opposition in 1980.

He disappeared in 1993, during a trip to Egypt for an Arab Human Rights conference. He was the founder of the Arab Organization for Human Rights (AOHR).

Al-Kikhia's body was found in Tripoli last April but remained unidentified until November 15th.

A funeral was held for him at al-Horreya Square in Benghazi. Prime Minister Ali Zidan, members of the government and the interim congress, friends and family, and a large gathering of the city's residents attended under tight security.

Gunshots were fired into the air by Libyan army personnel, and wreaths of flowers were placed on the tomb after a majestic funeral procession. People prayed for him.

"Retribution! Retribution!" and "Martyrs' blood won't be in vain" were chanted by mourners who attended the funeral.

On Sunday, Libyan leaders gathered at a memorial service held in Tripoli. General National Congress (GNC) President Mohamed Magarief and Premier Zidan hailed al-Kikhia as a "martyr for liberty", AFP reported.

"The tyrannical [Kadhafi] regime kidnapped the dissident Mansour Rashid al-Kikhia, killed him, hid his body and did not bury it, showing that the regime was more afraid of him dead than alive," a Libyan foreign ministry statement said.

A number of MPs, former Prime Minister Abdurrehim al-Keib, and former Egyptian Information Minister and AOHR head Mohamed Fayek were present.

"He was a leading opposition figure overseas," Zidan said. Mansour "defended freedom and human rights issues in his country for a quarter of century", he added.

"Mansour Kikhia was one of this country's pioneers who... did their best towards reform and dialogue, but then found out that they had no other option but to oppose the fallen regime and to go into self-imposed exiles," Magarief said during the memorial service in Tripoli.

The GNC head called for sincerity for the values and principles that al-Kikhia struggled for after Libya obtained its freedom.

"Mansour Kikhia was a great man of Libya, and a distinguished legist and diplomat on national and international levels," al-Keib said. "He was an activist who resisted with words, wisdom, and strong arguments."

"That man was a leading figure of Libya and a leading symbol of national unity," he added. "He never deviated from that principle, and has always struggled for that."

"Holding a memorial service in Tripoli and a funeral in Benghazi is the least we can do for a distinguished legist and diplomat who turned into opposition at the peak of Kadhafi's strength and repression," rights activist Amira Jribi said.

Ahmed Zaher, a manager in a private company, described al-Kikhia as "a man who was sincere to God".

"I suggest placing his picture on a new banknote in Libya," he added.

"We demand the competent authorities to investigate his kidnapping and handover [the culprits] to Libyan authorities," Benghazi resident Salah Adin Bin Zayed said.

Bin Zayed called also for the investigation of "the role of Egyptian authorities under Mubarak in kidnapping him".

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