Amer Fakhoury, a Lebanese-born naturalized American citizen who was detained for months in Beirut on charges of torturing Lebanese prisoners decades ago during the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon, died on Monday. He was 57.
Mr. Fakhoury, who owned a Lebanese restaurant in Dover, N.H., had been found to have late-stage lymphoma cancer while held in Lebanon and died at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, his family said.
Mr. Fakhoury, who became a U.S. citizen last year, was arrested and detained in Beirut in September, days after he returned to Lebanon for the first time in 20 years to see family. He denied the charges that he had overseen the torture of fellow Lebanese decades ago as a member of a Christian-dominated militia. He was also accused of collaborating with Israeli forces during their 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon.
In March, after U.S. government efforts to secure his release, Mr. Fakhoury was freed from jail when a judge ruled that the statute of limitations to prosecute him had expired.
“We believe that God took him out of these evil, terrorist hands and brought him to America to die peacefully with his family right by his side,” Macy Fakhoury, one of his four daughters, said on Tuesday. “I think that’s the biggest blessing of all.”
His case drew the attention of senior U.S. senators, as well as coverage by a Fox News show watched by President Trump. Senior Trump administration diplomats pressured the Lebanese government, warning that the case could damage its relationship with Washington, which sent the country more than $2.3 billion in military assistance between 2005 and 2019.
Trump administration officials said they believed that Mr. Fakhoury’s arrest was directed by Hezbollah, which plays a major role in the country’s government. Hezbollah officials, in a statement after Mr. Fakhoury’s release in March, said the dropping of charges against him was “a sad day for Lebanon and justice.”
While detained, he was tortured and had several ribs broken, and he was forced to drink filthy water while held in unsanitary conditions, said Guila Fakhoury, one of his daughters. He was healthy when he arrived in Lebanon, but while he was detained there he became infected with the Epstein-Barr virus, and lymphoma cancer was diagnosed later, his family said.
Amer Fakhoury was born in Jdaydet Marjeyoun, Lebanon, on May 31, 1963, to Josephine Abou Kassem and Elias Fakhoury.
When Mr. Fakhoury finally returned home to New Hampshire, where he owned a restaurant called Little Lebanon to Go, he looked like a different person, his daughters said. He and his wife, Micheline, used to go on evening walks around Dover. After he came back from Lebanon, he could make it only as far as the mailbox.
Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat, said in a statement that she was relieved that Mr. Fakhoury was able to spend the last few months of his life surrounded by loved ones and receiving excellent medical care.
“Amer was a loving husband, father and grandfather, and a pillar in his community,” she said. “He immigrated to the United States, and through hard work and entrepreneurship, he lived the American dream.”
He is survived by his wife, Micheline Fakhoury; four daughters, Guila, Amanda, Macy and Zoya; and three grandchildren. “This is not how we wanted his story to end,” said Zoya Fakhoury.