London police reopen probe into murder of cartoonist
London’s police department has reopened its investigation into the unsolved 1987 murder of the Palestinian political cartoonist Naji al Ali, whose work criticizing Israeli and Arab politics has become iconic in the Middle East in the decades since then.
The Metropolitan Police appealed for the public’s help on Tuesday, the 30th anniversary of the cartoonist’s shooting death outside a newspaper office in London. The police also released descriptions for two suspects in the case, including an artist’s rendering of what they believe the gunman would look like today.
“We have previously reviewed this case and followed a number of lines of enquiry which have not resulted in us identifying these two men,” Cmdr. Dean Haydon, head of the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command, said in a statement. “However, a lot can change in 30 years — allegiances shift and people who were not willing to speak at the time of the murder may now be prepared to come forward with crucial information.”
Al Ali, whose work appeared in Arabic-language newspapers, was shot in the back of the neck on July 22, 1987, while on his way to the London office of the Kuwaiti publication Al-Qabas. He was taken to a hospital, where he remained in a coma until his death on Aug. 29, 1987, at the age of 51.
Jonathan Guyer, an expert on Arab comics at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard, called al Ali’s artistic influence “unrivaled” and said he remained the most widely read cartoonist in the Arab world 30 years after his death.
Speculation has long centered on a possible political motive for al Ali’s killing, although the many targets of his pen could plausibly cast suspicion on nearly any group in the tangled Middle East conflict.
The police said on Tuesday that al Ali had received “a number of death threats” in the years before he died. But they also said they “remain open-minded” about his killers’ motive.