DOVER — A restaurant owner being held in the country of Lebanon is in life-threatening condition, his attorney says, and if he dies while being illegally detained in that country, officials say there will be a price to pay.
Amer Fakhoury, 57, is the owner of Little Lebanon To Go on Central Avenue in Dover.
While on a family vacation to his homeland this past September, Fakhoury was taken into custody and accused of being the “Butcher of Khiam” because as a member of the South Lebanon Army he served as a senior warden at the notorious Khiam detention center in the 1980s and 1990s.
Fakhoury’s family disputes the allegations and accuses the Lebanese government of luring him back to the country with promises of safety. His family claims he is being used as a “political football” in a country of unrest.
Fakhoury’s friends have said he has been deprived of food and water and that he has been left on a bathroom floor to suffer. Now a doctor says Fakhoury’s condition is grave because of a bad infection and a bleeding disorder, estimating he has lost more than 40 pounds since he was taken into custody on Sept. 12, says Fakhoury’s attorney, Celine Atallah.
Atallah is in Lebanon with Fakhoury and his wife, Michelle. Atallah spoke with the New Hampshire Union Leader on Wednesday.
Atallah said because of his medical condition, Fakhoury should be released on humanitarian grounds.
“You don’t want an innocent, illegally detained citizen who has been tortured, and all his rights are being violated, dying here. They have to release him immediately,” Atallah said.
Atallah applauds the work of U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., who has been working on Fakhoury’s case since the beginning.
During a subcommittee hearing on the Lebanon and Iraq protests on Wednesday afternoon, Shaheen told the principal deputy assistant secretary for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at the U.S. Department of State that if Fakhoury dies while in the custody of Lebanese officials, the country should be subjected to sanctions.
“I think this is a very serious situation that has not been taken seriously by the officials of the Lebanese government and they need to be on notice that we are looking very carefully and closely at what they are doing,” Shaheen said.
Shaheen said any officials of foreign governments and their immediate family members, about whom the Secretary of State has credible information that they have been involved in a gross violation of human rights, are ineligible for entry into the United States.
The record documents prepared by Atallah indicate Fakhoury is not the individual that the Lebanese and Hezbollah-linked newspapers allege him to be.
“Again, I think his health is very critical and we do not want a situation where he dies in Lebanese custody. That would not be good obviously for Lebanon, for the United States, and it would be a tragedy for Mr. Fakhoury and his family,” Shaheen said.
President Donald Trump’s administration lifted a hold on security assistance to Lebanon this week, which includes a $105 million package to support the Lebanese Armed Forces.
There have been questions about whether that freeze was linked to Fakhoury’s case, according to CNN. CNN reported on Monday that a senior State Department official would not say if the case of Fakhoury and the hold on U.S. security assistance were related, but that the two issues have been “periodically” linked at times in the past.
Little Lebanon To Go in Dover remains closed at this time.