DOVER — The lawyer for a Dover restaurant owner being detained in Lebanon says it’s “a hostage situation” that President Donald Trump should intervene in.
Celine Atallah, who represents Amer Fakhoury, 57, said officials at all levels in Lebanon have been put on notice of his extremely poor health. Fakhoury has developed Stage 4 lymphoma and lost an estimated 60 pounds since being detained on Sept. 12, she said.
Atallah said no charges have been made against her client. The Lebanese government has refused to release him despite humanitarian pleas.
“I see this as a potential murder case. By them keeping him there, it is clearly evident that they are trying to kill him,” Atallah said on Monday.
As a member of the South Lebanon Army he served as a senior warden at the Khiam detention center in the 1980s and 1990s. While on a family vacation to his homeland this past September, Fakhoury, a U.S. citizen, was taken into custody and accused of being the “Butcher of Khiam.”
Fakhoury’s family disputes the allegations, and accuses the Lebanese government of luring him back to the country with promises of safety. Fakhoury is receiving medical treatment while surrounded by Lebanese military guards, said Atallah, who declined to identify Fakhoury’s location for security reasons.
Atallah said she is confident that if Trump intervenes, Fakhoury could be returned home and treated for his cancer in Boston.
“We really need to put pressure on these people because diplomacy does not work with them… We’re calling on our president and his administration to act immediately because time is of the essence,” Atallah said.
“I know that our president would never want to see an innocent American citizen being held as a hostage.”
U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, has been working to free Fakhoury. In a statement, she said, “The Lebanese government needs to understand there will be consequences” for Fakhoury’s continued detention.
“I’m drafting sanctions legislation to hold those accountable who are complicit in Mr. Fakhoury’s arrest, beating and prolonged detention. Whenever an American is held unjustly by a foreign government, we as a nation need to do everything we can to bring them home,” Shaheen said.
Shaheen said “all options are on the table to secure Mr. Fakhoury’s freedom, reunite him with his family and provide the care he urgently needs.”
Fakhoury’s wife, Michelle, remains in Lebanon so she can be with her husband.
Guila Fakhoury, one of the couple’s four daughters, said on Monday that the family is “just hoping he will stay alive until he comes back.”
“His health is really, really bad, and it is continuing to deteriorate day by day. Right now, he needs to be next to family,” she said.