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Lebanonwire, July 26, 2002

The Daily Star

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Saad loses final battle against cancer
Resistance leader, defender of the poor dies at 51

Mohammed Zaatari
Daily Star correspondent

Sidon MP Mustafa Saad, one of the country’s civil war-era symbols, lost his long-running battle with lung cancer Thursday, succumbing in Beirut at the age of 51.
A leading figure of resistance to the Israeli occupation of his home town and a defender of low-income groups, Saad stayed active in political life for more than 17 years after the deadliest of three attempts on his life all blamed on Israel when 150 kilograms of TNT left his face deeply scarred and killed his 13 year-old daughter Natasha and a neighbor, while his Russian wife, Luba, lost one eye.
He also lost his sight in the Jan. 21, 1985 attack.
He survived a 1987 ambush on his motorcade in the Beirut suburb of Ouzai, which killed two of his bodyguards, and in January 1995, a car rigged with explosives was discovered and defused outside his Sidon home.
Saad continued to demand the opening of an investigation into the 1985 bombing, but the case remains unsolved and in the files of the Judicial Council until this day.
Parliament announced Saad’s passing shortly after his death at 1.30pm at the American University Medical Center, while Prime Minister Rafik Hariri left for Sidon to pay his condolences after the Cabinet session.
Shops began closing in Sidon as news of the popular MP’s death spread, and a large funeral is scheduled for Friday.
Abdel-Rahman Bizri, a leading figure in the city, said Lebanon had lost a leading “distinguished figure of politics and struggle” who, “until his final moments, spent his life confronting occupation and lobbying for the people’s rights, despite his struggle” with cancer.
Saad was an agricultural engineering student in the Soviet Union when his father, Sidon MP Maarouf Saad, was assassinated in February 1975 during a demonstration to support the city’s fishermen, an incident that some consider one of the opening shots of the civil war.
Saad rushed back to Lebanon to take over as secretary-general of the Popular Nasserite Organization, founded and headed by his father.
Saad was a leading member in the Lebanese-Palestinian military and political alliance until the Israeli invasion of 1982, when he was forced to leave Sidon, but returned shortly afterward at great personal risk.
He was arrested on two occasions by Israeli forces, but continued to be active in the resistance.
In the wake of Israel’s 1985 withdrawal from Sidon, Saad formed the Popular Liberation Army militia, which along with other factions took responsibility for keeping the precarious peace in Sidon.
After the war, Saad was elected to one of Sidon’s two Sunni seats in Parliament in 1992, 1996 and 2000, picking up the highest number of votes in the south Lebanon-Nabatieh district in the final round.
Saad’s was a fierce critic of Hariri’s liberal economic policies, although his last months saw a mellowing, marked by comments that Hariri should not be held solely responsible for the country’s dire economic situation.
In the 1990s, Saad was a staunch member of the parliamentary opposition, and supported building a state of law and institutions as he took frequent aim at the growth of the troika phenomenon.
Although a supporter of Emile Lahoud’s presidency, Saad was also opposed to militarizing the political system.
Saad was also active on humanitarian and social issues, establishing the Maarouf Saad Cultural Center, in a bid to boost the city’s cultural and intellectual life, which had suffered from the years of Israeli occupation.
Affected by his own loss of sight, Saad and his wife Najla helped establish a national eye bank in the 1990s, which provides free cornea transplant operations to Lebanese from all regions and sects.

Copyright The Daily Star

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