[News] US airlifts accused torturer for Israel out of Beirut

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Sat Mar 21 13:23:19 EDT 2020


https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/us-airlifts-accused-torturer-israel-out-beirut
US
airlifts accused torturer for Israel out of Beirut
March 20, 2020
------------------------------
[image: People walk around among ruined stone buildings]

The remains of Khiam prison after Israel bombed it in 2006. Israel and its
collaborators tortured detainees at the prison during their occupation of
southern Lebanon that ended in May 2000. (United Nations
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khiam_detention_center#/media/File:Khiam_UN.jpg>
)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is welcoming an accused torturer and
murderer back on American soil.

“American citizen Amer Fakhoury, who has been in detention in Lebanon since
September, is returning to the United States where he will be reunited with
his family and receive urgent medical treatment,” Pompeo announced
<https://www.state.gov/release-of-detained-american-citizen-amer-fakhoury/>
Thursday.

“His return comes as a relief to those who have followed the case with
grave concern. We are relieved to be able to welcome him back home.”

This perverse statement makes no mention of why Fakhoury was detained in
Lebanon – as if he were the victim of some grave injustice.

Fakhoury worked at the notorious Khiam prison
<https://electronicintifada.net/content/photostory-khiam-detention-camp/9479>
that operated in Israeli-occupied southern Lebanon from 1985 until Lebanese
resistance forces drove out the Israeli military and its South Lebanon Army
collaborator militia in May 2000.

Israel occupied southern Lebanon from 1978, and mounted a full-scale
invasion in 1982, when its army killed tens of thousands of people and
besieged and occupied Beirut.

A Lebanese military judge however ordered Fakhoury’s release this week
<https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/19/us-citizen-accused-of-torture-flees-lebanon-in-helicopter>,
on the basis that too much time had passed since his alleged crimes.

Lebanese prosecutors appealed the release, but before any further
proceedings could be mounted, the US airlifted Fakhoury out of its embassy
by helicopter.

“We are very grateful to the Lebanese government for working with us and we
are very proud of his family,” President Donald Trump said on Thursday.

Lebanon’s failure to prevent the American operation to remove Fakhoury is
being seen by some as a sign of the state’s weakness and complicity
<https://www.al-akhbar.com/Politics/285972/>.

Amid growing outrage over Fakhoury’s escape from justice, the head of the
Lebanese military tribunal resigned on Friday
<https://www.english.almanar.com.lb/972589>.

Lebanon’s foreign minister reportedly
<http://www.naharnet.com/stories/270281-diab-on-fakhoury-release-collaboration-crime-can-t-be-forgotten/>
summoned the US ambassador and asked her to explain “the circumstances of
Amer Fakhoury being transferred abroad from the US embassy.”

In a televised speech <http://english.almanar.com.lb/973084> Friday
night, Hasan
Nasrallah <https://electronicintifada.net/tags/hasan-nasrallah>, the leader
of Hizballah, denied there had been any deal to release Fakhoury, despite
enormous US pressure on Lebanon’s government.

Hizballah, which is part of the government, said that the US had threatened
to blacklist Lebanese officials and stop military aid to the country unless
Fakhoury was released.

Nasrallah said Hizballah had no advance knowledge of the release and called
for an inquiry into what occurred.
Torture and murder

Fakhoury’s arrest in September, after he returned to Lebanon, offered hope
of justice to the families of many of his alleged victims. That hope now
appears to be dashed.

One such family member is Ola Hamzeh.

Her father, Ali Abdallah Hamzeh, spent the last hours of his life in March
1986 tied to a pole in Khiam, “what would eventually become the most
notorious detention center for torture and ill-treatment in
then-Israeli-occupied southern Lebanon,” *Middle East Eye* reported
<https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/lebanons-former-khiam-detainees-find-hope-accountability>
in September.

“He was 42 years old, a father of three children, and a teacher at a local
school in the village of Jmayjmeh in southern Lebanon.”

According to former detainees, Hamzeh died within two weeks of his
abduction. The South Lebanon Army never returned his body to his family.

Former detainees say Fakhoury commanded the prison when conditions were at
their worst, particularly between 1986 and 1995, according to *Middle East
Eye*.

Over many years, Amnesty International documented
<https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/mde18/008/2000/en/> the torture
methods at the prison, including “Filthy hoods, relentless interrogation
through beatings, repeated suspension from an electricity pylon, dousing
with water, and electroshocks.”

The human rights group noted that many detainees were first taken to Israel
for interrogation and then sent to Khiam, or vice versa.

Many of those held were simply civilians taken hostage by the Israelis to
be used as bargaining chips in negotiations with resistance organizations
including Hizballah.
Liberation

This horror came to an end on 23 and 24 May 2000. Witnesses told Amnesty
researchers that “all of a sudden, around midday on 23 May, there was the
dramatic liberation.”

“No jailers showed up with the keys to the cells, they actually ran away
from the prison to join other [South Lebanon Army] members streaming to the
border to seek refuge in Israel, as Israeli troops rushed themselves to the
border.”

The people of the town of Khiam “acting out of the momentum created by the
hurried and confused Israeli withdrawal, went to the detention center
demanding the liberation of the prisoners.”

Among those fleeing to Israel was Fakhoury. He eventually made his way to
the United States where despite – or perhaps because of – his alleged role
in human rights crimes, he obtained citizenship.

I visited Khiam prison in late June 2000. It was just weeks after the
Israeli defeat.

The mood in the south was still jubilant in every town and village we
visited – I was with several people who had also been in Lebanon attending
a conference in Beirut of the American Association of University Graduates.

People from all over Lebanon were streaming to the newly liberated
territories, many laying eyes on a stunningly mountainous and rugged part
of their country for the first time.

Residents of the south, many recently returned from Beirut where they had
lived as displaced persons, welcomed us joyfully. In town squares,
destroyed or captured Israeli military equipment was on display, festooned
with Lebanese and resistance flags.

The most memorable part was our visit to Khiam.

It was a series of low stone buildings up on a hill, originally constructed
as French army barracks in the 1930s. I will never forget entering the
dormitory cells – dark and dingy rooms with bunk upon bunk crowded together.

It looked as if the prisoners had been there that morning: Clothes and
underwear were still hanging on lines above the beds and personal notes and
letters were pinned on walls. The liberation of the prison had been so
sudden that everything was frozen in place and it almost felt like a
violation of privacy to be in those spaces.

I remember the row of solitary confinement cells – these were shown to us
by former prisoners who were now acting as guides. There was a courtyard
and a row of solid metal doors. Inside was a bare stone space about one by
two meters.

It was impossible to imagine spending an hour inside one of those cells,
let alone weeks, months or years.

One of the most famous people to be held in such a cage was Lebanese
resistance hero Souha Bechara. In 1988, at the age of 21, Bechara attempted
to assassinate Antoine Lahad, the head of Israel’s South Lebanon Army
collaborator militia.

She too was tortured. As she wrote in her memoir, *Resistance: My Life for
Lebanon*, she was “thrown to the ground and lashed with a studded whip on
my legs and the soles of my feet,” leaving her in unbearable pain. She was
also subjected to electric torture.

Bechara spent 10 years in Khiam, six of them in in solitary confinement
<https://www.dailystar.com.lb/GetArticleBody.aspx?id=120808&fromgoogle=1>.

She described being thrown in a “minuscule box with no mattress or
blanket.” She was given a little food and a cup of water once a day. “In
theory, I was allowed to go and wash myself once a week, although they
often forgot to take me out of my cave.”

She has spoken about her torture and how she and other prisoners resisted,
in numerous interviews, including this one from 1999:

And then there was the electric shock torture room.

I remember this as a single story brick building, with thin wires strung up
along the ceiling and wall to some sort of device that looked like it might
be used to jump-start a car.

It all looked very makeshift, but according to our guides it was a place of
horrific suffering and pain inflicted by the Israelis and the traitors who
worked with them.

During its 2006 invasion of Lebanon, Israel bombed Khiam prison
<https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/08/legacy-torture-lebanon-khiam-jail-170813125414823.html>
in an attempt to destroy a monument and memorial to its crimes – though
survivors continue to maintain the site.

In 1999, Israel admitted
<https://www.hrw.org/news/1999/10/27/torture-khiam-prison-responsibility-and-accountability#>
what survivors of the prison had long reported: that Israeli personnel were
directly involved in interrogations at Khiam.

That admission, Human Rights Watch stated, must be used as part of efforts
to hold “accountable Lebanese and Israelis responsible for systematic acts
of torture that have occurred there over the past two decades.”

But two *more* decades later, Israel and its collaborators continue to
enjoy impunity. Instead of facing justice, those involved in that cruelty,
like Fakhoury, are welcomed to the United States as heroes.
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