Amer Fakhoury was freed from a prison in Lebanon, where he had been jailed since September 2019, accused of being responsible of the killings and abuse of prisoners in Lebanon as part of an Israeli-backed militia two decades ago
An American citizen who had faced decades-old murder and torture charges in Lebanon has been freed, President Donald Trump announced this morning.
Trump dedicated the first few minutes of his daily coronavirus task force briefing to talk about the release of Amer Fakhoury, which he hailed as a ‘big thing, very big.’
‘He is battling late stage cancer. Mr Fakhoury will now be able to receive the much needed care and treatment in the United States.’
Trump continued: ‘we’ve been working very hard to get him freed, and he’s finally able to have his entire family at his side. So I’m very grateful to the Lebanese government that worked with us.
‘We are very proud of his family. They stood by him so strongly, and they are thrilled.
‘The United States has no higher priority than the safety and well-being of our citizens.’
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., said in a statement that she had spoken with Fakhoury on the phone soon after his release.
A US Marine Osprey is seen taking off from the US Embassy in Aukar, northeast of Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, purportedly with Fakhoury on board following his release from prison
President Trump this morning announced Fakhoury’s release, which he hailed as a ‘big thing’
She also released a statement from Fakhoury’s family on her website thanking Shaheen for helping secure Amer’s release amid his battle with lymphoma.
‘It’s hard to put into words how grateful and relieved we are to finally be returning to the United States with Amer,’ the statement read. ‘We have been through a nightmare that we would never wish on anyone. From the bottom of our hearts, we want to thank everyone who believed in Amer’s innocence and fought tirelessly to bring him home to the country he loves. First and foremost, we want to thank Senator Shaheen and her staff who have been relentless in their efforts to free Amer. Senator Shaheen pursued every means possible to secure Amer’s freedom—this would not have happened without her. Amer considers Senator Shaheen his hero.’
The Fakhoury family on Thursday released a statement thanking Sen Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat from New Hampshire, for helping secure the prisoner’s release from Lebanon
The family also extended their thanks to Trump and members of his administration who took part in the negotiations for Fakhoury’s release.
‘Amer is in very poor health and urgently needs care, but all of you gave him a fighting chance and most importantly, hope and freedom. God Bless America,’ the family’s message concluded.
Lebanese officials alleged that Fakhoury, 57, of Dover, New Hampshire, who had been jailed since September, was responsible for the killings and abuse of prisoners in Lebanon as part of an Israeli-backed militia two decades ago.
His case had put a significant strain on already troubled ties between the US and Lebanon. Lawmakers in Washington had threatened to withhold critical aid to the country and impose sanctions on the Lebanese military, which is seen by the Trump administration as a bulwark against the Iranian-backed Hezbollah movement.
‘Anytime a U.S citizen is wrongfully detained by a foreign government, we must use every tool at our disposal to free them,’ Shaheen said in her statement. ‘I´m very glad that Amer is finally coming home and will be reunited with his family. No family should have to go through what the Fakhoury family has gone through.’
Hours before Shaheen announced Fakhoury’s release a US Marine Osprey was seen landing at the US Embassy in Beirut.
Lebanon’s intelligence service said Fakhoury confessed during questioning to being a warden at Khiam Prison (pictured), described by human rights advocates as a center for torture
Fakhoury is a Trump supporter and attended a campaign event with the president in New Hampshire. He became a naturalized US citizen last year
Fakhoury was ordered released on Monday because more than 10 years had passed since he allegedly tortured prisoners at a jail run by the South Lebanon Army militia.
But he was not immediately allowed to leave the country after a Lebanese military judge on Tuesday appealed the decision, asking the a Military Court of Appeals strike down the decision to free Fakhoury.
A judge of urgent matters in the southern town of Nabatiyeh issued a ruling preventing Fakhoury from leaving Lebanon for two months. Judge Ahmad Mezher´s decision came after a request filed by former inmates.
Fakhoury is a former SLA member who became a US citizen last year. His case has been closely followed in New Hampshire, where Shaheen and other officials have called for imposing sanctions on Lebanon to pressure Beirut to release him.
Fakhoury was jailed last year after returning to Lebanon on vacation to visit family. Lebanon’s intelligence service said he confessed during questioning to being a warden at Khiam Prison, which was run by the SLA during Israel’s 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon.
Human rights groups have described the prison as a center for torture.
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
In this June 2016 file photo, Fakhoury, holds his granddaughter, Kira, in King of Prussia, Pennylvania
Fakhoury´s family and lawyer, however, said he had no direct contact with inmates and was never involved in any interrogation or torture.
Lebanon and Israel have been officially at war since Israel´s creation in 1948. Lebanon bans its citizens from traveling to Israel or having contact with Israelis.
Fakhoury´s lawyer and family say he fled Lebanon in 2001 through Israel and eventually to the United States because of death threats he and many other SLA members received after Israel ended its occupation of Lebanon in 2000.
Fakhoury was formally charged in February by a military judge with the murder and torture of inmates at Khiam Prison.