Family continues lawsuit over alleged man tortured in Lebanon

CONCORD, NH (AP) – Relatives of a Lebanese-American man said they are happy to move forward with their lawsuit alleging that Lebanese security forces kidnapped and tortured him before he died in the US, now that a judge is rejecting the attempt of the service to beat the police has refused. accusations.

Amer Fakhoury died in August 2020 in the United States 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 incarcerated while visiting Lebanon over decades-old murder and torture charges that he denied.

Lawyers representing Lebanon’s General Security Directorate had asked to intervene in the tort lawsuit to quash the allegations. Lebanon is not named as a defendant.

In its filing, the Lebanese security service claimed that the lawsuit falsely accuses her and her director of “serious crimes of kidnapping, torture and murder on the designation or aid of alleged terrorist organizations”. It tried to refute the allegations.

A federal judge rejected that request in an injunction Monday.

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

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

The family is encouraged to continue with their lawsuit.

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

The security director “tried very hard to hide his agency’s involvement and quell our case, but the court couldn’t pull it off,” family lawyer Robert Tolchin said in the statement.

David Lin, a lawyer representing the security service, said in a statement: “We are weighing all options, including the possibility of appealing the court’s decision or filing a confirmatory defamation lawsuit.”

He added: “Our client will continue to defend his reputation against unwarranted attacks.”

Iran has not yet responded to the lawsuit. It has ignored others filed in US courts in the wake of the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the hostage-taking of the US embassy.

Fakhoury’s imprisonment in Lebanon took place in September 2019, not long after he became a US citizen. Fakhoury, a restaurateur in New Hampshire, visited his homeland on vacation for the first time in nearly 20 years. A week after he arrived, he was imprisoned and his passport confiscated, his family said.

The day before he was taken into custody, a newspaper close to the Iran-backed Shia group Hezbollah published a story accusing him of a role in the torture and murder of prisoners at a prison run by an Israeli-backed Lebanese militia. during the Israeli occupation of Lebanon two decades ago. Fakhoury was a member of the South Lebanon Army.

The article called him the “butcher” of the Khiam detention center, which was notorious for human rights violations. Fakhoury’s family said he had worked in the prison as a member of the militia, but that he was a clerk who had little contact with inmates. When Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000, Fakhoury left the country, like many other militia members who feared reprisals. He arrived in the US in 2001.

As early as 2018, Fakhoury had requested guarantees from the US State Department and the Lebanese government that he would be able to visit Lebanon freely. His family said he was told there were no charges against him in Lebanon or that there were no legal cases that could stand in the way of his return.

On 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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