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Lebanon could soon find itself punished by sanctions over the detention of an American citizen.
The plight of the New Hampshire resident, Amer Fakhoury, has caught the attention of Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., who is threatening to sanction individuals involved in his imprisonment.
Shaheen is pressing the Lebanese government to release him, especially since he has been diagnosed with cancer. The family is also urging President Trump to intervene.
“There has been no evidence to substantiate the charges against Amer Fakhoury and his health condition is dire,” Shaheen said in a statement to Fox News. “Time is of the essence, and the Lebanese government needs to understand there will be consequences for his continued detention.”
Amer Fakhoury is pleading the Trump administration to work to get him back from Lebanon. (Fakhoury Family)
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Shaheen, who is reportedly working on a sanctions bill, stated, “Whenever an American is held unjustly by a foreign government, we as a nation need to do everything we can to bring them home. All options, including sanctions, are on the table to secure Mr. Fakhoury’s freedom, reunite him with his family and provide the care he urgently needs.”
According to the US Aid website, the United States gave around $201 million in assistance to Lebanon in 2019. The Trump administration released economic and military aid in December even though Fakhoury was then being held without any charges.
His family thanked Shaheen for her help and called for his immediate release., noting that he has stage four B cell lymphoma.
“He is gravely ill and the hospital lacks the basic medicine in order to treat him properly,” the family said in a statement.
In urging Trump’s support, Fakhoury’s family said he supported the president in 2016 and even posed with him for a picture.
“The family calls on President Trump to help bring this innocent American citizen back home,” the statement said. “He is in critical condition and every day his health is deteriorating. We fear that our father will die in Lebanon.”
Fakhoury was arrested in his native Lebanon during a family trip last September after he was accused in a pro-Hezbollah publication of torturing Hezbollah and Palestinian prisoners while he served with the South Lebanon Army (SLA) at Khiam prison.
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The SLA was a predominantly Christian force allied and supported by Israel during its proxy war against Hezbollah and Palestinian militant groups in the 1980s and ’90s.
After being held without charges for nearly six months, The Associated Press reported that Fakhoury was charged earlier this month by a military judge with murder and attempted murder of prisoners at a jail run by the SLA. He was also charged with kidnapping and torture.
His lawyer, Celine Atallah, told Fox News the charges are fabricated, noting that after all the investigations were made into the infamous prison and the names of those accused of torture and murder were made public, Fakhoury was not among them.
Atallah maintains that there is no evidence to support his continued detention.
“Amer’s only crime is that he is a United States citizen, which is making the Lebanese government hold him hostage to gain leverage over the United States,” she said. “This is an egregious act of criminality by them …. to torture and refuse to release a critically ill innocent American citizen just for them to gain leverage over the United States.”
She added: “They should understand that our government does not negotiate with terrorists, and they should be on notice of the sanctions being drafted by Sen. Shaheen, as diplomacy does not work with these people.”
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Atallah said she hopes that incoming U.S. Ambassador Dorothy Shea will make Fakhoury’s release “one of her first priorities.”
The plight of the New Hampshire resident caught the attention of his U.S Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, who has threatened to sanction individuals involved in his imprisonment. (Fakhoury Family)
Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies who focuses on the region, said “the Lebanese government should suffer the consequences of its agencies illegally imprisoning an American citizen.”
“Hezbollah runs the entire political order in Lebanon. Hence, any government which emerges from that order is a Hezbollah government,” Badran said. “This latest government does not have the fig leaf of political figures the West is comfortable with, like former Prime Minister Saad Hariri. Whether or not the government includes such figures is irrelevant. The real power behind it is the same regardless. And that’s Hezbollah.”
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A State Department official told Fox News that the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon is closely monitoring the Fakhoury case.
“We are concerned about his welfare, as doctors report his health is failing and he requires urgent specialized medical treatment. 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,” the statement said.
Questions emailed by Fox News to Lebanese authorities were not returned.
Fox News Correspondent Jacqui Heinrich and the Associated Press contributed to this article.
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