Lebanon militia veteran accused of torture returned to US, Trump says

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Washington (AFP)

A former senior member of a pro-Israel Lebanese militia accused of torture was released Thursday to the United States, where he is a naturalized citizen, President Donald Trump said.

Trump said that Amer al-Fakhoury, a former member of the South Lebanon Army (SLA) who was detained on his return to Beirut in September, was suffering late-stage cancer.

"We've been working very hard to get him freed. He's finally able to have his entire family at his side," Trump told reporters at the start of a daily news conference on the coronavirus pandemic.

"The United States has no higher priority than the safety and well-being of our citizens," he said.

After his arrest, a Lebanese security source said Fakhoury had already been sentenced in absentia to 15 years in prison for collaborating with Israel.

He served as a senior warden in the notorious Khiyam prison, which was opened in 1984 by the Christian-dominated SLA after Israel occupied southern Lebanon in what it called a security zone.

Former inmates accuse Fakhoury of ordering the torture of thousands of detainees held there before Israeli forces withdrew from the area in 2000, ending their 22-year occupation of south Lebanon.

"Not a single person held in Khiyam was spared physical and psychological torture," Abbas Kabalan, who was detained there from 1987 to 1988, said as he took part in a demonstration last year in Beirut.

He accused Fakhoury both of ordering and personally taking part in beatings of inmates.