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Judge in Lebanon Appeals Order to Release Amer Fakhoury

Judge in Lebanon Appeals Order to Release Amer Fakhoury

Tuesday, 17 March, 2020 - 18:00
View of the courtyard of the Khiam prison May 24, 2000, a day after the detainees were freed by a mob who broke into the jail. (AFP)

A Lebanese military judge Tuesday appealed a verdict by the military tribunal that ordered the release of Amer Fakhoury held since September on charges of working for the Israeli-backed South Lebanon Army militia two decades ago, state-run National News Agency said.

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

On Monday, Fakhoury was ordered released because more than 10 years had passed since he allegedly tortured prisoners at a jail run by the so-called South Lebanon Army.

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 US Sen. 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 Hezbollah party that said the verdict to release Fakhoury came after "American pressures and threats."

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 hospitalized with stage 4 lymphoma cancer.

Fakhoury has been jailed since Sept. 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, 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.

Fakhoury's family and lawyer, however, say 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 for collaborating with Israel.

In February, Fakhoury was charged by a military judge with the murder and torture of inmates at Khiam Prison.

Hundreds of former Lebanese members of the SLA militia had fled to Israel, fearing reprisals if they remained in Lebanon. Others stayed and faced trial, receiving lenient sentences.

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