Amer Fakhoury: Lebanese American accused of torture dies in US

Fakhoury was arrested last September but released in March due to the length of time since his accused crimes

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)

A Lebanese-American man accused of torture but released from custody in Beirut earlier this year has died at his home in New Hampshire.

Amer Fakhoury was accused in Lebanon of running a prison for the South Lebanon Army, a hardline Israeli-backed Christian militia.

Fakhoury’s US lawyer Celine Atallah confirmed his passing.

Fakhoury, 57, was arrested during a personal visit to Beirut last September but released in March and whisked out of the country aboard a US helicopter. He denied the charges against him but the case caused controversy in Lebanon as several local parties demanded he faces trial despite the time elapsing between his alleged crimes and his arrest.

Collaborating with Israel remains a highly sensitive crime in Lebanon, which has been at war with Israel since its creation in 1948. A high ranking member of the South Lebanon Army, a Christian militia that collaborated with Israel during its 1982-2000 occupation of the region, Fakhoury supervised the prison of Khiam, where inmates were routinely tortured and held outside any legal framework, according to Amnesty International.

Fakhoury’s release by order of a military tribunal angered Israel’s archenemy, Lebanese political party-cum-militia Hezbollah. A south Lebanon judge tried to prevent him from leaving the country by issuing a two-month travel ban. The head of the military court, Hussein Abdallah, resigned following Mr Fakhoury’s exit to the United States.

“We released him because Lebanese law stipulates that a case must be dropped after 20 years,” said a source at the military court who asked to remain anonymous because he had not received permission to speak to the media. Fakhoury was sentenced to 15 years in prison for spying for Israel in absentia in 1996 but his case was dropped at his lawyer’s request in 2018.

“When he came to Beirut in 2019, we had no right to arrest him, but what happened, happened,” said the source.

“We knew he had leukaemia – that is why we treated his case quickly” added the source.

Like thousands of SLA members, Fakhoury fled Lebanon when Israel withdrew in May 2000. He entered Israel and shortly after, migrated to the United States, where he opened a Lebanese restaurant in Dover, New Hampshire. His family denies that he was involved in acts of torture.

Mrs Atallah previously told The National that Mr Fakhoury had been subject to mental and physical abuse following his arrest in Lebanon. Lebanese authorities reject these claims.