Family to proceed with lawsuit alleging man was tortured in Lebanon

CONCORD, NH (AP) — Relatives of a Lebanese-American man said they are happy to continue their lawsuit alleging Lebanon’s security agency kidnapped and tortured him before he died in the United States, now that a judge has rejected the attempt. of the agency attacking the accusations.

Amer Fakhoury died in the United States in August 2020 at age 57 from stage 4 lymphoma. His family says in the lawsuit, filed in Washington last year against Iran, that he developed the disease and other serious medical problems while he was jailed during a visit to Lebanon on decades-old murder and torture charges that he denied.

Lawyers representing the Lebanese General Directorate of General Security had asked to intervene in the wrongful death lawsuit to have the charges against them dropped. Lebanon is not named as a defendant.

In its filing, the Lebanese security agency claimed that the lawsuit falsely accuses it and its director of “serious crimes of kidnapping, torture and murder at the direction or aid of alleged terrorist organizations.” He tried to deny the accusations.

A federal judge denied that request in an order Monday.

He said the family’s allegations about Fakhoury’s detention and links between Iran, Lebanon and Hezbollah — a dominant political and militant force in Lebanon described in the family’s lawsuit as an “tool” of Iran — “have obviously offended ” to the agency.

But he said the claims “are not irrelevant to the plaintiffs’ litigation against Iran, they lie at the heart of the plaintiffs’ complaint.”

The family is encouraged to move forward with their lawsuit.

“We are pleased that the complaint against the perpetrators is proceeding as it was filed,” Zoya Fakhoury, one of Amer Fakhoury’s four daughters, said in a family statement Tuesday.

The security director “went to great lengths to hide his agency’s involvement and silence our case, but the court would not allow it,” the family’s attorney, Robert Tolchin, said in the statement.

David Lin, a lawyer representing the security agency, said in a statement: “We are weighing all options, including the possibility of appealing the court’s decision or filing an affirmative action for defamation.”

He added: “Our client will continue to defend its reputation against baseless attacks.”

Iran has not yet responded to the demand. He has ignored others brought against him in US courts in the wake of the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the US Embassy hostage crisis.

Fakhoury’s imprisonment in Lebanon took place in September 2019, shortly after he became a US citizen. Fakhoury, a restaurateur from New Hampshire, visited his native country on vacation for the first time in nearly 20 years. A week after his arrival, he was jailed and his passport was confiscated, his family said.

The day before he was arrested, a newspaper close to the Iranian-backed Shi’ite group Hezbollah published a story accusing him of playing a role in the torture and murder of inmates at a prison run by an Iranian-backed Lebanese militia. Israel during the occupation of Israel. of Lebanon two decades ago. Fakhoury was a member of the South Lebanon Army.

The article dubbed him the “butcher” of the Khiam Detention Center, who was known for human rights abuses. Fakhoury’s family said that he had worked in the prison as a member of the militia, but that he was an office worker who had little contact with inmates. When Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000, Fakhoury fled the country, like many other militants who feared reprisals. He came to the United States in 2001.

As early as 2018, Fakhoury had sought assurances from the US State Department and the Lebanese government that he was free to visit Lebanon. His family said they were told there were no charges against him in Lebanon and no legal issues that would interfere with his return.

Upon his return to Lebanon, Fakhoury was detained for five months before being formally charged, his family said. By then, he had lost more than 60 pounds and had lymphoma and rib fractures, among other serious health problems, they said.

Ultimately, the Lebanese Supreme Court dropped the charges against Fakhoury. He was returned to the United States on March 19, 2020 on a US Marine Corps Osprey aircraft. He died five months later.


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