A military tribunal in Beirut on Monday ordered the release of a Lebanese-American held in the country for nearly six months on charges of working for an Israeli-backed militia two decades ago, Lebanon’s state-run news agency said.
Amer Fakhoury was ordered released because more than 10 years had passed since he allegedly tortured prisoners at a jail run by the so-called South Lebanon Army, the National News Agency said.
Fakhoury, 57, is is a former SLA member who became a US citizen last year, and is now a restaurant owner in Dover, New Hampshire. His case has been closely followed in his home state of New Hampshire, where US Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and other officials have called for imposing sanctions on Lebanon to pressure Beirut to release him.
Fakhoury has not been attending questioning sessions in Lebanon over the past few months, since being hospitalized with stage 4 lymphoma.
It was not immediately clear if he will be set free, as he is facing another case filed by former prisoners who say they were tortured by him.
Over the weekend, the Fakhoury family placed a sign on their restaurant’s door saying they anticipate reopening by early or mid-April, Seacoastonline.com reported.
“We are excited to serve you again!” the sign read. The statement was attributed to Fakhoury and his wife, Micheline.
Fakhoury has been jailed since September 12, after returning to Lebanon on vacation to visit family. Lebanon’s intelligence service said he confessed during questioning to being a warden at Khiam Prison, which was run by the SLA during Israel’s 18-year control of southern Lebanon.
Human rights groups have described the prison as a center for torture.
Fakhoury’s family and lawyer, however, say he had no direct contact with inmates and was never involved in any interrogation or torture.
Lebanon and Israel have been officially at war since Israel’s creation in 1948. Lebanon bans it citizens from traveling to Israel or having contact with Israelis.
His lawyer and family say he fled Lebanon in 2001 through Israel and eventually to the United States because of death threats he and many other SLA members received after Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000.
In February, Fakhoury was charged by a military investigative judge with the murder and torture of inmates at Khiam Prison.
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.