March 19, 2020 / 3:07 PM / 12 days ago

Lebanese-American Amer Fakhoury released from prison in Beirut - U.S.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Lebanese-American Amer Fakhoury, who was detained in Lebanon in September, has been released and is on his way back to the United States, U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday.

Fakhoury, a 57-year-old New Hampshire resident, was accused of overseeing the torture of Lebanese at a prison in south Lebanon in the 1980s and 1990s while part of an Israeli-backed militia during the Israeli occupation, a charge he denies.

The case prompted U.S. senators Ted Cruz and Jeanne Shaheen to introduce a bill that would sanction Lebanese officials involved in detaining U.S. citizens in Lebanon, though the legislation had yet to go up for a vote.

“Fakhoury is on his way back to the United States ... He’s battling late-stage cancer,” Trump told a news conference in which he also thanked the Lebanese government.

A Lebanese military court on Monday acquitted Fakhoury, citing the expiry of statute of limitations, a move that drew criticism from local media and politicians. Other Lebanese judicial authorities later ordered his travel ban and retrial, according to state media.

The parliamentary bloc of the Shi’ite Hezbollah movement denounced Fakhoury’s release on Thursday, calling it blatant U.S. interference in Lebanon’s affairs.

“The dignity of all Lebanese has been insulted by this vile political ruling,” it said in a statement.

Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk in Washington; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Matthew Lewis

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