Lebanon: an alleged former associate of Amer Fakhoury shot dead

Local media reports that a former associate of a high-profile Israeli collaborator who just left Lebanon with US help was shot dead

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 former associate of Amer Fakhoury, who collaborated with Israel decades ago and was recently airlifted out of Lebanon after six months in prison, was shot dead near the Lebanese city of Saida, local media reported.

Retired police officer A.H. was gunned down in his shop in the town of Mieh Mieh, according to the state-run National News Agency.

Local media identified the man as Antoine Howayek, who allegedly worked as a policeman at a detention centre in southern Lebanon run by the South Lebanon Army (SLA) and supervised by Mr Fakhoury in the 1990s. Thousands of Lebanese were tortured at Khiam prison.

"He participated in suppressing the uprising that claimed the lives of two captives, Bilal Salman and Ibrahim Abu Izza, by throwing a smoke bomb in the victims' room," wrote news website Al Modon.

The Catholic archbishop of Saida and Deir el Qamar, Eli Haddad, said in a statement following Mr Howayek's death that "it was not appropriate to take the law in our own hands."

(FILES) In this file photo members of the Lebanese Shiite Amal movement on September 15, 2019,  hold a photograph of Amer al-Fakhoury, dring a  demonstration in front of the former Israeli-run prison of Khiyam on the border with Israel, to demand his trial.  A former member of a pro-Israel Lebanese militia accused by witnesses of torture was released March 19, 2020 to the United States, where he is a naturalized citizen, President Donald Trump said.Trump said that Amer al-Fakhoury, a former member of the South Lebanon Army (SLA) who was detained on his return to Beirut in September, was suffering late-stage cancer.

The SLA was a Christian-led militia that collaborated with Israel during its occupation of South Lebanon (1982-2000). After its withdrawal, thousands of SLA members fled to Israel. Those who stayed in Lebanon received lenient prison sentences. Extrajudicial killings are rare.

Despite public pressure to keep him behind bars, Mr Fakhoury, 57, was released last Monday by Lebanon’s military tribunal, and was airlifted two days later by a US marine helicopter from the US embassy in Lebanon to the United States.

He was arrested shortly after his arrival in the country last September on a family visit after spending nearly two decades in the US. He holds dual citizenship.

“Today we are bringing home another American citizen... he is battling late stage cancer. I am very grateful to the Lebanese government,” said US president Donald Trump.

One day before Mr Fakhoury’s escape, a Lebanese judge had issued a two-month travel ban against him. Beirut’s airport has been shut since Wednesday over fears of the spread of the coronavirus.

The Military Court released him because more than 10 years had passed since he allegedly tortured prisoners at Khiam prison.

The SLA helped Israel arrest those who fought its occupation, including Iran-backed Hezbollah and its allies.

Lawyers that defended former Khiam detainees said that Mr Fakhoury should have been charged with crimes against humanity for which there is no statute of limitations.

Lebanon and Israel have been in a state of war since Israel’s creation in 1948. Lebanese citizens are not allowed to contact Israelis or travel to Israel.

Following the public outcry caused by Mr Fakhoury’s release, the head of the Military Tribunal, Hussein Abdallah, resigned.

On social media, many Lebanese said that they believed that Hezbollah, one of Lebanon's most influential parties, had allowed Mr Fakhoury to escape as part of a deal with the US.

On Friday, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah denied this, saying that his party had no knowledge of Mr Fakhoury’s release in advance.

“Ever since Fakhoury was arrested six months ago, the US started exerting strong pressures on the Lebanese state to resolve this issue and release this collaborator without any conditions,” he said.