Lebanese-American Charged Over Collaborating With Israel Risks Death Sentence

Former member of Israel-backed South Lebanon Army, who spent most of his life in the U.S., returned home after learning he has life-threatening cancer

A Lebanese flag flies over Khiam prison, in the southern town of Khiam, Lebanon, on August 16, 2006.
A Lebanese flag flies over Khiam prison, in the southern town of Khiam, Lebanon, on August 16, 2006.Credit: NASSER NASSER,AP

A military investigative judge charged a Lebanese-American man with murder and torture of Lebanese citizens on Tuesday, crimes he allegedly committed during Israel's occupation of southern Lebanon, judicial officials said. The accusations could carry a death sentence.

Amer Fakhoury has confessed to working as a senior warden at Khiam Prison, which was run by an Israel-backed Lebanese militia. Fakhoury was detained after returning to his native Lebanon from the U.S. in September. However, he's undergoing cancer treatment, and it remains unclear if he'll be able to stand trial.

Amer Fakhoury gathers with family members at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, N.H., USA, in May 2019.Credit: Guila Fakhoury,AP

The judge, Najat Abu Shakra, referred Fakhoury to a military court where he will be tried, the officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media. No date was set for the tribunal.

The officials said Abu Shakra charged Fakhoury with "murder and attempted murder of prisoners inside Khiam Prison as well as kidnapping and torture." The prison, run by the so-called South Lebanon Army, was abandoned after Israeli forces pulled out of southern Lebanon in 2000, ending an 18-year occupation.

Human rights groups have said in the past that Khiam Prison was a site of torture and detention without trial. Israel denies the allegations.

Lebanon and Israel have been officially at war since Israel's creation in 1948. Lebanon bans it citizens from traveling to Israel or have contact with Israelis.

The judge dropped charges of dealing with and visiting Israel because two decades have passed since the incidents, making them outdated, the officials said.

The charges by the investigative judge were separate from a lawsuit against Fakhoury filed by former inmates at Khiam Prison. He's being questioned in that case about alleged atrocities. The questioning was supposed to take place on Monday, but was postponed until February 17 because Fakhoury is undergoing chemotherapy.

Fakhoury’s family said doctors have said his condition is life threatening. In addition to an infection and a bleeding disorder, doctors believe he's developed an aggressive form of lymphoma.

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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