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US senator calls for sanctions on Lebanon over detention of ex-Israel collaborator Open in fullscreen

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US senator calls for sanctions on Lebanon over detention of ex-Israel collaborator

Amer Fakhoury was a member of the former Israeli-backed South Lebanon Army [Getty]

Date of publication: 24 January, 2020

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Amer Fakhoury was known as the 'Butcher of Khiam' for his work at a former Israel-linked prison described by human rights groups as a centre for torture.
A US senator announced she is drafting sanctions legislation against Lebanese officials over the detention of a senior official of a former Israel-linked militia that tortured hundreds of Lebanese detainees.

Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire said she wants to hold Lebanese officials accountable for Amer Fakhoury, who is an American citizen. She claims he is being held without any charges.

"Time is of the essence and the Lebanese government needs to understand there will be consequences for his continued detention," Shaheen, a Democrat and member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said in a statement this week.

Shaheen said she is drafting the legislation "to hold those accountable who are complicit in Mr. Fakhoury's arrest, beating and prolonged detention".

"Whenever an American is held unjustly by a foreign government, we as a nation need to do everything, we can do bring them home. All options are on the table to secure Mr. Fakhoury's freedom, reunite him with his family and provide the care he urgently needs," she added.

Fakhoury was a member of the former Israeli-backed South Lebanon Army (SLA). He was also known as the "Butcher of Khiam" for his work at a former prison described by human rights groups as a centre for torture.

Between 1985 and 2000, more than 5,000 people passed through Khiam prison's doors. At least 10 died as a result of the brutal torture they underwent there.

The 144 people who remained incarcerated in Khiam were released when local residents stormed the facility following Israel's withdrawal from south Lebanon in 2000. 

He was taken into custody in September after he landed in Beirut without arrest, despite having been previously sentenced to 15 years in prison and having multiple arrest warrants against him.

He was then detained and referred to the Military Tribunal on September 13 and has confessed to "cooperating with and working for Israel".

Fakhoury's lawyer and family say he fled Lebanon in 2001 through Israel and eventually to the US, and claim that he was never involved in the interrogation or torture of prisoners and was never accused when the prison was investigated years ago. 

Judicial records and witnesses in Lebanon say otherwise.

Fakhoury was transferred to Hotel Dieu from prison after being diagnosed with what his family and lawyer say is Stage 4 lymphoma.

Guila Fakhoury, the oldest of Fakhoury's four daughters, said doctors cannot always reach her father because of the road closures.

She said he has missed chemotherapy treatments. "It's a life and death situation right now," she said.

"I'm just frustrated we're not able to get him home. We're talking about a sick, innocent US citizen."

A State Department spokesperson said on Wednesday that consular officers from the US Embassy in Beirut most recently visited Fakhoury on January 16.

Shaheen raised the idea of sanctions against Lebanon in December, saying that US officials have been unable to persuade the Lebanese government to release Fakhoury on humanitarian grounds.

She said then that sanctions should include ones that would make any involved officials and their family members ineligible for entry into the United States.

"We are concerned about his welfare, as doctors report his health is failing and he requires urgent specialized medical treatment," the spokesperson said a statement.

"We have raised these concerns at all appropriate levels with the Lebanese government. We will continue to follow his case closely, and to provide him and his family all appropriate consular assistance."

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