TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Scores gathered to mourn Libya’s Gaddafi-era prime minister and oil chief Shokri Ghanem at a low-key funeral in Tripoli on Friday, days after he was found dead in Austria’s Danube river.
It was a low-profile end for a man who was once one of the most powerful figures in Libya and then captured the world’s attention by defecting during last year’s uprising against Muammar Gaddafi.
There were no representatives from Libya’s new interim leaders present at the burial. Ghanem was closely associated with Gaddafi’s rule and after his defection, the rebellion snubbed him.
The crowd of more than 200 former school friends, colleagues and neighbours prayed quietly at the men-only ceremony after Friday prayers at a Tripoli cemetery.
His nephews, cousins and brothers-in-law were present, but his son Mohammed could not be seen, a Reuters reporter there said. Some could be heard quietly reminiscing about the country’s former de facto oil minister.
The ceremony began in a small outside prayer space, where his casket, covered in a white embroidered cloth, lay on a table. The casket was then carried out to the cemetery in a silent procession before his body was buried.
A passerby discovered Ghanem’s fully-clothed body in the Danube on Sunday, a few hundred metres from his home in a 22-storey apartment block. Police have said they have no reason to suspect foul play but the circumstances surrounding his death remain under investigation.
Ghanem, who was wanted in Libya for questioning in a graft inquiry, was privy to detailed information on oil deals between the Gadaffi regime and Western governments and oil firms.
He would have had enemies among Gaddafi’s opponents because of his years at the centre of power, as well as among the late leader’s friends and kin because of his decision to defect.
Friends and colleagues have said they suspect enemies may have killed Ghanem, 69, who knew more than anyone about Gaddafi’s suspected multi-billion-dollar fortune. Associates have also said he was worried about health problems.
Vienna’s top homicide investigation team is investigating Ghanem’s death, but prosecutors said on Thursday that did not mean they suspected he was murdered.
Ghanem had been chairman of Libya’s state-owned National Oil Corporation (NOC) since 2006. He helped steer Libya’s oil policy and represented the country at OPEC meetings.