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US airlifts Lebanese-American accused of torture, murder from Lebanon

Members of the Lebanese Shia 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. [JOSEPH EID/AFP via Getty Images]
Members of the Lebanese Shia 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. [JOSEPH EID/AFP via Getty Images]

Lebanese-American Amer Fakhoury, accused of torturing and murdering prisoners while serving in the Israeli-backed south Lebanon army, has been airlifted from Beirut by the US, Senator Jeanne Shaheen announced yesterday.

A US Marine Osprey was seen landing at the US Embassy in Beirut, hours before Fakhoury’s release was announced.

Shaheen said she had spoken with Fakhoury on the phone soon after his release, adding that “anytime a US citizen is wrongfully detained by a foreign government, we must use every tool at our disposal to free them”.

In a statement later yesterday, US President Donald Trump said that he was “very grateful to the Lebanese government. They worked with [the US]”.

Fakhoury was detained on 12 September when he arrived in the country to visit family after more than two decades.

The former member of the south Lebanon Army has been accused of being the “Butcher of Khiam” over allegations that he oversaw the torture and murder of detainees during his tenure as a prison guard.

Former detainee Abbas Qabalan told local media Naharnet that “not a single person held in Khiam was spared physical and psychological torture”. At least ten people died at the prison while Fakhoury was working there.

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The charges against Fakhoury were initially dropped on Monday, when he was acquitted because the alleged offences took place more than ten years ago.

However, a military judge ordered a re-trial after Judge Ghassan Khoury asked the Military Court of Appeals to overturn the acquittal. A court order forbidding Fakhoury from travelling internationally for two months was announced later.

In the wake of Fakhoury’s release, the head of the Military Tribunal Brigadier General Hussein Abdallah announced his resignation from the post this morning, the Daily Star reported.

Abdallah said he resigned “out of respect for my oath and military honour” adding the military tribunal had become a place where “the application of the law equals to the release of an agent of pain”.

Tensions between the US and Lebanon have risen dramatically as a result of Fakhoury’s detention, with Senators Shaheen and Cruz tabling legislation in February which would invoke sanctions against Lebanese officials and associates which are deemed to have been involved in the illegal detention of a US citizen.

The Trump administration have threatened to withhold aid to the country and sanction the Lebanese military.

After his arrival in Lebanon, Fakhoury was diagnosed with stage 4 lymphoma and is now expected to undergo medical treatment surrounded by his family in the US.

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