Family cannot sue Lebanon for dead man’s captivity


CONCORD, NH (AP) — A judge on Monday denied a family’s attempt to sue Lebanon over allegations that the country’s security agency kidnapped and tortured a family member before he died in the States -United

Amer Fakhoury, a Lebanese-American, died in the United States in August 2020 at the age of 57 after suffering from stage 4 lymphoma. His family’s lawsuit, filed in Washington last year against Iran, says he developed the disease and other serious medical problems while imprisoned during a visit to Lebanon on decades-old murder and torture charges he has denied .

The family had sought to expand the trial to also target Lebanon.

Fakhoury’s detention in 2019 and his release in 2020 marked a new strain in relations between the United States and Lebanon, which finds itself in the grip of one of the world’s worst economic disasters and plagued by tensions between Washington and Iran.

Lawyers representing Lebanon’s security agency, the General Directorate of General Security, had initially asked to intervene in the Fakhoury family’s wrongful death lawsuit against Iran to have the allegations against Lebanon expunged. That request was also denied by U.S. District Judge John Bates in his order Monday.

The Lebanese security agency had claimed that the lawsuit wrongly accused him and his director of “serious crimes of kidnapping, torture and murder at the direction or with the help of suspected terrorist organizations”.

In turn, the Fakhourys’ lawyer, Robert Tolchin, had asked for permission to officially sue Lebanon.

The family’s lawsuit first argued that it was possible to sue Iran under an exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act because it has since been designated a ‘state sponsor of terrorism’. 1984. The trial also describes Hezbollah, now both political and militant dominant. force in Lebanon, as an “instrument” of Iran.

Tolchin said the Fakhourys interpreted the Lebanese security agency’s request for intervention as a waiver of sovereign immunity. A lawyer for the agency denied this, and the judge agreed.

Bates wrote that there was “insufficient evidence for the court to conclude” that the agency intended to waive its sovereign immunity.

Messages seeking comment have been sent to lawyers.

Iran has yet to respond to the lawsuit. He ignored other complaints filed against him in US courts following the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the US Embassy hostage crisis.

Fakhoury’s imprisonment in Lebanon took place in September 2019, shortly after he became a US citizen. Fakhoury, a restaurateur from New Hampshire, visited his home country on vacation for the first time in nearly 20 years. A week after arriving, he was jailed and his passport seized, his family said.

A day before his arrest, a newspaper close to the Iran-backed Shia group Hezbollah published an article accusing him of playing a role in the torture and murder of detainees in a prison run by a Lebanese militia. supported by Israel during the Israeli occupation. of Lebanon two decades ago. Fakhoury was a member of the South Lebanon Army.

The article dubbed him the “butcher” of the Khiam detention center, known for its human rights abuses. Fakhoury’s family said he had worked at the prison as a member of the militia, but was a clerk who had little contact with inmates. When Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000, Fakhoury left the country like many other militiamen who feared reprisals. He arrived in the United States in 2001.

As early as 2018, Fakhoury had asked the US State Department and the Lebanese government for assurances that he could travel freely to Lebanon. His family said they were told there were no charges against him in Lebanon or that there were no legal cases that might interfere with his return.

Upon his return to Lebanon, Fakhoury was held for five months before being formally charged, his family said. By then, he had lost more than 60 pounds, suffered from lymphoma and had broken ribs, among other serious health issues, they said.

Eventually, the Lebanese Supreme Court dropped the charges against Fakhoury. He was flown back to the United States on March 19, 2020 aboard a US Marine Corps Osprey aircraft. He died five months later.

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