Lebanese judge appeals order to release 'Butcher of Khiam'

Butcher of Khiam: Lebanese judge appeals order to release Amer Fakhoury after US pressure
3 min read
17 March, 2020
The decision to acquit US-Lebanese national Amer Fakhoury has been controversial in Lebanon.
Former pro-Israeli militia member Amer Fakhoury was arrested last year [Getty]

A Lebanese military judge Tuesday appealed a verdict by a military tribunal that ordered the release of Amer Fakhoury, a a former member of an Israeli-backed militia accused of torture and murder, state-run National News Agency said.

Judge Ghassan Khoury asked the Military Court of Appeals to strike down an earlier ruling acquitting Fakhoury and issue an arrest warrant against him.

Widely known as the "Butcher of Khiam", the dual US-Lebanese national was accused of murder, attempted murder, kidnapping and torture during his time presiding over the Khiam prison, a notorious detention centre run by the South Lebanon Army (SLA) militia during Israel's occupation of Lebanon.

He was detained in September last year after he returned to Lebanon from the United States but acquitted on Monday on all charges.

Khoury asked that Fakhoury be put on trial again on charges of kidnapping, torturing and detaining Lebanese citizens as well as "killing and attempting to kill others," according to NNA.

Fakhoury was ordered released because more than 10 years had passed since he allegedly tortured prisoners at a jail run by the pro-Israel SLA militia.

Some local media reported that Fakhoury was released but there was no official confirmation.

Later on Tuesday, 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, 57, is a former SLA member who became a US citizen last year, and is now a restaurant owner in Dover, New Hampshire. His case has been closely followed in his home state of New Hampshire, where Senator Jeanne Shaheen and other officials have called for imposing sanctions on Lebanon to pressure Beirut to release him.

Tuesday's appeal came after an outcry in Lebanon over the verdict that ordered him released, including harsh criticism from by the powerful Hezbollah group that said the verdict to release Fakhoury came after "American pressures and threats".

"This is a sad day for Lebanon and justice," Hezbollah said in a statement adding that the reputation of Lebanon's judiciary was at stake.

Riots also broke out in one of the country's main prisons by detainees who demanded to be freed following the verdict against Fakhoury.

Fakhoury has not been attending questioning sessions in Lebanon over the past few months after being hospitalised with stage 4 lymphoma cancer.

Over the weekend, the Fakhoury family placed a sign on their restaurant's door saying they anticipate reopening by early or mid-April, Seacoastonline.com reported.

Fakhoury has been jailed since September 12 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.

Human rights groups have described the prison as a center for torture.

Fakhoury's family and lawyer, however, say he had no direct contact with inmates and was never involved in any interrogation or torture.

Follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram to stay connected