Intel: Lebanon frees jailed US citizen after Washington threatens sanctions

al-monitor Amer Fakhoury is pictured holding his granddaughter in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, US, in this 2016 photo. Photo by TWITTER/Guila Fakhoury.

Mar 19, 2020

Lebanon today released jailed US citizen Amer Fakhoury, suffering from stage 4 cancer, after Washington threatened to move ahead with sanctions.

Lebanese authorities had detained Fakhoury for more than six months, charging him with torturing inmates at the notorious Khiam prison when he served in the Israel-backed South Lebanon Army during the civil war. Fakhoury’s family has denied the allegations. They acknowledge that he worked at the prison, but claim that he did not have contact with inmates.

“Anytime a US citizen is wrongfully detained by a foreign government, we must use every tool at our disposal to free them,” said Jeanne Shaheen, Democratic senator from Fakhoury’s home state of New Hampshire. “I have long supported close ties between the United States and Lebanon and hope this is a first step to repairing relations.”

Why it matters: Shaheen teamed with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and the Donald Trump administration to craft a sanctions bill aimed at securing Fakhoury's release. The measure would have sanctioned Lebanese government, judicial and military officials responsible for the wrongful detention of any US citizen.

A Lebanese military tribunal ordered Fakhoury’s release on Monday on the grounds that a 10-year statute of limitations had expired, but a judge overturned the ruling. This prompted Shaheen to move forward with a process that would have allowed the Senate to unanimously pass her sanctions bill, as Al-Monitor exclusively reported on Tuesday.

What’s next: Shaheen will presumably drop her sanctions bill now that Fakhoury is returning home. Members of Congress critical of Hezbollah’s influence, however, among them Cruz, are likely to continue pushing to curtail aid to Lebanon. Cruz has introduced a bill to condition some military aid to the Lebanese Armed Forces based on its efforts to weed out Hezbollah’s influence and disarm the paramilitary group.

Know more: For additional information on the Trump administration’s interagency battle over Lebanese aid, check out an article by Al-Monitor congressional correspondent Bryant Harris from December.

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