Lebanese authorities deny mistreatment of Lebanese-American citizen after family lawsuit

Amer Fakhoury’s family is suing Iran over his death from cancer after he was incarcerated in Lebanon

In this May 2019 file photo provided by Guila Fakhoury, her father Amer Fakhoury, second right, gathers with family members at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, N.H. U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, of New Hampshire, is sponsoring a bill, which she is expected to introduce Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, along with Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, to ban visas and freeze assets of Lebanese officials involved in the detention of Amer Fakhoury. Fakhoury, a restaurant owner in Dover, New Hampshire, who became a U.S. citizen last year,  has been jailed since Sept. 12, 2019, in his native country and has been hospitalized with stage 4 lymphoma. (Guila Fakhoury via AP, File)
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Lebanese authorities have denied mistreating an American-Lebanese citizen in prison who died after his release last year.

In a four-page statement sent to The National, Lebanon’s General Security refuted claims by Amer Fakhoury’s family that he was mistreated during his time in prison, leading to his death from cancer.

General Security said a forensic doctor had issued a report that “confirms the absence of any signs of torture or beatings or that he was subjected to any violence,” during his time at a detention centre they run. It did not provide a copy of the report to The National, or give the doctor's name.

The statement said Fakhoury was transferred to a military hospital in November 2019 and to two civilian hospitals in December that year and January 2020. His wife, family, lawyers and the American Embassy “visited him regularly and viewed his medical file” it adds.

Fakhoury’s return to Beirut two years ago sparked controversy because Lebanese authorities accused him of torture and of having collaborated with Israel more than 20 years ago. Collaboration with Israel is a serious crime in Lebanon. The two countries do not have diplomatic ties and are technically still at war.

Giulia Fakhoury, one of his four daughters, previously told The National that her father “obtained the Epstein Barr Virus at the Lebanese General Security”, and that the virus took his life as it went untreated and developed into lymphoma cancer.

The family said last week that they are suing Iran and Hezbollah in a US federal court for the death of Fakhoury last year. They say the group controls Lebanon and is responsible for his incarceration and death.

The lawsuit claims he was "brutally tortured by officials, employees and agents of Hezbollah.”

Fakhoury was a member of the South Lebanon Army, a now-defunct Israeli proxy. His family said his role at the notorious Khiam prison, where Lebanese authorities accuse him of torture, was purely logistical.

In the statement, General Security said they confiscated Fakhoury’s passport upon arrival and instructed him to appear before the directorate “due to suspicions on how the legal, judicial and security prosecutions against him had been lifted in violation to the law, given the fact that he had illegally departed from Lebanon.”

It added that Fakhoury was questioned about “crimes attributed to him on charges of torturing detainees in one of the Israeli occupation prisons in south Lebanon, and charges of kidnapping persons, and rape.”

The Lebanese military court dropped charges against him last year because the statute of limitations had expired.

After his interrogation, Fakhoury was detained in a General Security-run detention centre “for only 22 hours” from September 2019 11am until September 2019 at 9pm, according to the statement.

During the remaining period of his detention, he was in the custody of the judiciary and the statement says General Security cannot be questioned on the development of his mental and physical condition at the time.

His daughter Guilda says her father lost 34 kilograms during his detention in Lebanon.

General Security denies that Fakhoury suffered from malnutrition.

“This issue is totally refuted since [Catholic NGO] Caritas is the one responsible for feeding the detainees under the supervision of the doctors assigned by it,” the statement said, adding that the doctors and officers at the centre eat the same food as the detainees.

Updated: October 13, 2021, 6:46 PM