You may have thought these former world leaders — or, in one case, former world-leader-in-waiting — were dead. But they’re not, though all of them are either in ill-health or imprisoned.
1.) Saif al-Islam Gadhafi
Moammar Gadhafi’s favorite son has been little heard of since his father was deposed and killed, but the man Western liberals used to fawn over for his supposedly democratic vision for his father’s dictatorship is very much alive and well. Unfortunately for him, he isn’t in exile in some lavish palace, but in the custody of a Libyan militia in Zintan.
Foreign Policy magazine recently traveled to Zintan to look into Saif whereabouts. While there, reporter Christian Caryl talked to local militia member Alajmi Ali Ahmed al-Atiri.
“I had come to Zintan to hear Atiri’s take on the issue that has placed his town in an unlikely international spotlight,” writes Caryl.
“Atiri still vividly remembers the day when he and his men made their mark on the history of their country. It was the fall of 2011, a month after the ignominious death of Moammar al-Gadhafi, and Atiri was commanding a Zintani militia unit patrolling a remote region along the country’s southern border with Niger. When his unit received a tip that a high-ranking member of the old regime was trying to escape across the border, Atiri set up a nighttime ambush on a smuggler’s road. Sure enough, his fighters soon surprised two cars that quickly became mired in the dunes. They captured the occupants, one of whom, Atiri noticed, was trying to hide his face.”
The man hiding his face turned out to be Saif, who, according to Atiri, demanded that the militia members kill him.
“Since his capture in that moonlit ambush in the Sahara, Saif has remained in the custody of the Zintanis, who are now holding him in a jail at an undisclosed location in the city,” Caryl writes. “The Zintanis have refused to hand him over to anyone else, including the central government in Tripoli — and it is their insistence on this point that has sparked their feud with the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Hague-based international tribunal created in 2002 to try war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
The Zintanis claim that all they want is a fair trial for Saif, who recently turned 41 years old.
“Atiri says that the position of the Zintanis is simple: They want to see Saif get a fair trial, but they don’t think that can happen in Tripoli. They’re convinced that it’s possible in Zintan (though they don’t have much to say about the details of how it would take place),” Caryl writes.
So for now, Saif remains in prison, where the Zintanis claim he is being treated well.
“The Zintanis are quick to insist that they’re happy to provide access to Saif’s defense lawyers (or, at least, the public defenders appointed to his case in Tripoli),” Caryl continues. “They also say that they’re taking care to ensure humane living conditions for their illustrious prisoner — including TV, plenty of reading material, and air conditioning. They do note, however, that he is being held in isolation from other prisoners, though they refuse to elaborate on the details for security reasons. (The precise location or nature of his jail in Zintan remains a secret.)”
2.) Ariel Sharon
On Jan. 4, 2006, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a devastating stroke. For the past seven and a half years, Sharon has been in comatose-like state, though his doctors say it is actually a “minimal conscious level” — not a coma.
Earlier this year, tests indicated that Sharon had “significant” brain activity when shown photos by his family or played a recording of his son’s voice.
“We know that he can process pictures — pictures of faces,” Dr. Alon Friedman of Ben Gurion University told CNN. “And he can even differentiate between pictures of faces and pictures of houses, pictures of his family to other objects. He can differentiate between words that were spoken to him by his son, compared to a noise.”
In an interview with The Daily Caller in October 2011, Sharon’s son Gilad discussed his father’s condition.
“When he is asleep, he looks like lord of the manor sleeping,” he said. “And when he is awake he looks at me, he moves his fingers when I ask him. For me, every little thing like that is a big deal and we hope for the best.”
Asked then whether there was hope is father’s condition would improve, he said he just didn’t know.
“I’m not dealing with chances or the percentage of people, you know, it is what it is and we are looking forward for him to get better,” he said.
Sharon is currently 85 years old.
3.) Hosni Mubarak
Before the 2011 Egyptian revolution that forced long-time dictator Hosni Mubarak from power, it was regularly rumored that the strongman was ill and didn’t have long to live. In June 2011, Mubarak’s lawyer admitted the deposed leader had stomach cancer.
Since he was forced from power, Mubarak has been in the custody of the Egyptian government. It has been reported, at various times, that he is near death, in ill health, in a coma and, in one case, “clinically dead.” Whatever the accuracy of those reports at the time they were published, today he remains very much alive, though probably not as strong a man as he used to be.
In June 2012, Mubarak was convicted of not putting a stop to the killing of protesters during the revolution and sentenced to life in prison. He was later granted a retrial and appeared in court in May on a stretcher. He last appeared in court in July and his retrial is set to begin again later this month.
The 85-year-old is likely currently being held at the Tora Prison Hospital in Cairo. In a June interview he supposedly declared that he stepped down as Egypt’s leader for the good of the nation.
“I made the decision to step down myself,” he reportedly told an Egyptian paper from his prison hospital. “No one pressured me. It was possible for me to stay in power but I decided to step down to protect people’s lives and not shed blood.”