DOVER — A city restaurant owner being detained in Lebanon was charged with murder and torture on Tuesday.
Amer Fakhoury, 57, was taken into custody on Sept. 12 while on a family vacation to his home country. He allegedly served as a senior warden at the notorious Khiam detention center in the 1980s and 1990s and is accused of being the “Butcher of Khiam.”
The accusations will likely carry a death sentence if he is convicted.
Fakhoury’s family and attorney have been pleading for his release on humanitarian grounds. Fakhoury has Stage 4 lymphoma and has lost an estimated 60 pounds since being detained, his family said.
Attorney Celine Atallah said Fakhoury is an innocent American citizen.
“These are outrageous and fabricated charges,” Atallah said. “We will continue fighting for him. We will never give up.”
Atallah said Fakhoury has been tortured and left in unsanitary conditions. She has called on President Donald Trump and others in the administration to pressure Lebanese officials for his release.
U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, has been working to free Fakhoury.
“There has been no evidence to substantiate the charges against Amer Fakhoury and his health condition is dire,” she said in a statement on Tuesday. “Time is of the essence and the Lebanese government needs to understand there will be consequences for his continued detention.”
She said last week that she was drafting sanctions “to hold those accountable who are complicit in Mr. Fakhoury’s arrest, beating and prolonged detention.”
An official speaking on condition of anonymity told The Associated Press that Judge Najat Abu Shakra charged Fakhoury with “murder and attempted murder of prisoners inside Khiam prison as well as kidnapping and torture.”
The prison was abandoned after Israeli forces left southern Lebanon in 2000 after an 18-year occupation.
The charges are separate from a lawsuit against Fakhoury filed by former inmates at Khiam prison. The questioning in that case was supposed to take place on Monday, but was postponed until Feb. 17 due to Fakhoury’s chemotherapy treatments.
Fakhoury is one of hundreds of people who served in the South Lebanon Army and fled the country. According to his family and Atallah, he went back on assurances that there would be no issue with his return.
No date has been set for a tribunal on the murder and torture charges.