American man who was detained in Lebanon for six months dies of cancer, family sayscloseVideo
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Amer Fakhoury, the New Hampshire man who was beaten and tortured after being detained during a family vacation in Lebanon nearly a year ago, died of cancer earlier Monday, according to his family.
Fakhoury returned home in March following a daring military rescue operation.
The 57-year-old developed cancer during his forced incarceration in Beirut, which his family believes was linked to unsanitary conditions. A naturalized U.S. citizen, the father of four was arrested on false charges drummed up by Hezbollah in his native Lebanon last September.
Fakhoury’s family confirmed his death in a statement to Fox News, saying in part, "Amer Fakhoury went to Lebanon for vacation with his family. Under the hands of Hezbollah, he was tortured and given Epstein-Barr Virus which later developed into stage 4 B cell lymphoma cancer. God loved Amer Fakhoury so much that he took him out of the hands of these terrorists and brought him to his family in America to live out his last days. Fakhoury died a painless death the morning of August 17 surrounded by his wife and four loving kids."
The family thanked the public for their support during Fakhoury’s captivity, as well as those who helped furnish his release.
"We would especially like to thank Senator (Jeanne) Shaheen and President Trump’s administration for everything they have done to bring Amer back home, and especially Senator Shaheen’s support in this hard time. We would also like to thank Ambassador Shea for her support. Most importantly we would like to thank lawyer Céline Atallah for always being there for our family."
Senator Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, worked with the White House and State Department to free Fakhoury, and reacted to his death in a statement offering her family’s condolences.
“It’s heartbreaking to learn of Amer’s passing,” Shaheen said. “Billy and I send our condolences and continue to offer our support to the Fakhoury family who have been through so much. I’m very relieved that Amer was able to spend the last few months of his life surrounded by loved ones while receiving the best care possible. Amer was a loving husband, father and grandfather, and a pillar in his community. He immigrated to the United States, and through hard work and entrepreneurship, he lived the American dream. I know all of New Hampshire mourns with the Fakhoury family.”
Fakhoury, a father of four, was held without charges for nearly six months after a Hezbollah-backed newspaper accused him of torturing Hezbollah and Palestinian terrorists in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Fakhoury, who fought with the South Lebanon Army during Israel’s occupation of the country, was never previously accused of the charge, and had taken advantage of a Lebanese invite to ex-pats to return to his home country after not seeing family for two decades. The largely Christian force disbanded after Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000, and Fakhoury sought refuge first in Israel and finally in America, where he received citizenship, opened a successful restaurant, and became an active member of the Republican party.
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Shaheen, a big supporter of U.S./Lebanon ties, had worked with the Fakhoury family, their lawyer, Lebanese officials, and the U.S. embassy to investigate Fakhoury’s detention from the outset, eventually concluding he was using Fakhoury as a bargaining chip. Under pressure from the embassy, prompted by calls from Shaheen, Fakhoury was transferred to a military prison, where a medics documented evidence of torture.
Eventually, Shaheen and Senator Ted Cruz, (R-TX) proposed bipartisan sanctions against senior Lebanese officials involved in Fakhoury’s unlawful detention, and the State Department pushed for his freedom. A military judge responded to the mounting pressure by charging Fakhoury with murder, attempted murder of prisoners, kidnapping, and torture, all of which were later dropped.
Soon, the Trump administration got its choice of Ambassador, Dorothy Shea, confirmed by the Senate, and she also started lobbying for his release – despite threats to herself and the American embassy. Meantime, Fakhoury’s cancer was getting worse, and news of an imminent release was leaked to the press. A few days later, Fakhoury was secretly taken to the U.S. embassy where he stayed with his wife and lawyer hoping word would come of his release.
While the Lebanese courts were deciding his fate – the judge on his case was a Hezbollah sympathizer – a daring operation was launched. Fakhoury was flown home from Beirut aboard a U.S. Marine V-22 Osprey from the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan, wearing an oxygen mask and resting on a gurney, before being taken to the U.S. Navy weapons base in the Greek Island of Crete. Finally, he was returned home to Dover, NH. His rescue by American forces came for him despite the Hezbollah-affiliated judge attempting to block his release, which was ordered by a military tribunal.
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Senator Shaheen said she believes Fakhoury’s arrest was baseless and politically motivated, adding that he was caught between groups jockeying for power in the state. Shaheen reiterated her office found no evidence to substantiate the claims against him.
President Trump announced the news of Fakhoury's release calling his release a "big thing" and that he was on the way home. "Today we are bringing home another American citizen," the president said. Trump also said he was "grateful" to the Lebanese government that Fakhoury's family "stood by him so strongly," adding that he would, "be able to receive much-needed care in the U.S."
At the time of his release, Celine Attalah told Fox News: “This innocent American went to Lebanon very healthy and look what they did to him. 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. 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."
Lebanon is a major beneficiary of American aid, and having received more than $2.29 billion in military assistance since 2005. Hezbollah’s influence in Lebanon has grown massively over the years and in the May 2019 election, it increased its number of parliament seats to hold some key ministries. The SLA, of which Fakhoury was a former member, was set up to fight Hezbollah's influence and was funded by the Lebanese government until 2000.
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Fakhoury is survived by his wife Micheline, four daughters and three grandchildren.
Fox News' Travis Fedschun contributed to this article