American detained in Lebanon for six months dies of cancer, family say

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Amer Fakhoury, the New Hampshire man who was beaten and tortured after being detained during a family vacation in Lebanon nearly a year ago, died of cancer earlier on Monday, his family said.

Fakhoury returned home in March after a daring military rescue operation.

The 57-year-old developed cancer during his forced incarceration in Beirut, which his family believe was linked to unsanitary conditions. A naturalized American citizen, the father of four was arrested on false charges launched by Hezbollah in his native Lebanon last September.

Fakhoury’s family confirmed his death in a statement to Fox News, saying in part: “Amer Fakhoury went to Lebanon on vacation with his family. At the hands of Hezbollah, he was tortured and given the Epstein-Barr virus which later became stage 4B cancer of cell lymphoma. God loved Amer Fakhoury so much that he took him out of the hands of these terrorists and brought him to his family in America to live out his last days. Fakhoury died painlessly on the morning of August 17 surrounded by his wife and four loving children. ”

The family thanked the public for their support during Fakhoury’s captivity, as well as those who contributed to his release.

“We would especially like to thank Senator (Jeanne) Shaheen and President Trump’s administration for all they have done to bring Amer home, and in particular the support of Senator Shaheen during this difficult time. We would also like to thank Ambassador Shea for her support. We especially want to thank lawyer Céline Atallah for always being there for our family. ”

Senator Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, worked with the White House and the State Department to free Fakhoury, and responded to his death in a statement offering condolences from his family.

“It is heartbreaking to hear of Amer’s passing,” Shaheen said. “Billy and I send our condolences and continue to offer our support to the Fakhoury family who have been through so much. I am very relieved that Amer was able to spend the last months of his life surrounded by his loved ones while receiving the best possible care. Amer was a loving husband, father and grandfather and a pillar of his community. He immigrated to the United States and, through hard work and entrepreneurship, he lived the American dream. I know all of New Hampshire is crying with the Fakhoury family.

Fakhoury, a father of four, was held without charge for almost six months after a Hezbollah-backed newspaper accused him of torturing Hezbollah and Palestinian terrorists in the 1980s and 1990s. Fakhoury, who fought with the army of South Lebanon during the occupation of the country by Israel, has never been charged before with the charge and had taken advantage of a Lebanese invitation to expatriates to return to his home country after not having seen a family for two decades. The largely Christian force dissolved after Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, and Fakhoury sought refuge first in Israel and eventually in America, where he obtained citizenship, opened a thriving restaurant, and became an active member of the Republican Party.

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Shaheen, a big supporter of US-Lebanese relations, had worked with the Fakhoury family, their lawyer, Lebanese officials, and the US Embassy to investigate Fakhoury’s detention from the start, ultimately concluding that he was using Fakhoury as his currency. ‘exchange. Under pressure from the embassy, ​​following calls from Shaheen, Fakhoury was transferred to a military prison, where doctors documented evidence of torture.

Eventually, Shaheen and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) proposed bipartisan sanctions against senior Lebanese officials involved in Fakhoury’s illegal detention, and the State Department pushed for his freedom. A military judge responded to the growing pressure by charging Fakhoury with murder, attempted murder of prisoners, kidnapping and torture, all of which were subsequently abandoned.

Soon the Trump administration got the choice of Senate-confirmed ambassador Dorothy Shea, and she also began pushing for her release – despite threats against herself and the U.S. Embassy. Meanwhile, Fakhoury’s cancer was getting worse and news of an impending publication leaked to the press. A few days later, Fakhoury was secretly taken to the United States Embassy where he remained with his wife and lawyer hoping that his release would come.

As Lebanese courts decided his fate – the judge in charge of his case was a Hezbollah sympathizer – a daring operation was launched. Fakhoury was brought back from Beirut aboard a US Marine V-22 Osprey from the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan, wearing an oxygen mask and resting on a stretcher, before being taken to the Weapons Base of the ‘US Navy on the Greek island of Crete. Eventually he was taken home to Dover, NH. His rescue by US forces came for him despite the Hezbollah-affiliated judge trying to block his release, which was ordered by a military court.

AMERICAN DETAINED IN LEBANON RELEASED AFTER 6 MONTHS

Senator Shaheen said she believed Fakhoury’s arrest was groundless and politically motivated, adding that he was caught between groups vying for power in the state. Shaheen reiterated that his office had found no evidence to support the allegations against him.

President Trump broke news of Fakhoury’s release calling his release “a big thing” and that he was on his way home. “Today we are bringing home another American citizen,” the president said. Trump also said he was “grateful” to the Lebanese government that Fakhoury’s family “supported him so strongly”, adding that he would “be able to receive much needed care in the United States.”

Upon her release Celine Attalah told Fox News: “This innocent American went to Lebanon very healthy and look what they did to him. Amer’s only crime is that he is a citizen of the United States, forcing the Lebanese government to take him hostage to gain leverage over the United States. It is a blatant criminal act on their part … to torture and refuse to release a gravely ill innocent American citizen just to allow him to gain ground in the United States. ”

Lebanon is a major recipient of US aid, having received more than $ 2.29 billion in military aid since 2005. Hezbollah’s influence in Lebanon has grown considerably over the years and in the May 2019 elections, it increased the number of its seats in parliament ministries. The SLA, of which Fakhoury was a former member, was created to combat Hezbollah’s influence and was funded by the Lebanese government until 2000.

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Fakhoury is survived by his wife Micheline, four daughters and three grandchildren.

Fox News’s Travis Fedschun contributed to this article

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