BEIRUT: The state commissioner to the Military Appeals Court Ghassan Khoury submitted an appeal Tuesday against the Military Tribunal’s decision to acquit former head of Israel-linked prison Amer Fakhoury of charges including murder and torture.
State Prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat had requested Khoury to submit the appeal and asked a retrial for Fakhoury.
Fakhoury's trial was set to be held on April 16, however the Tribunal took the decision on March 16 and Fakhoury was acquitted of his charges six months after he was first arrested upon his arrival to Lebanon.
He was indicted in February and charged with torture, murder, attempted murder of inmates, and kidnapping of thousands of Lebanese citizens in south Lebanon’s Khiam prison, a facility he oversaw between 1985 and 2000.
At least 10 people died at the prison during Fakhoury’s tenure at Khiam.
Judge of Urgent Matters in Nabatieh Ahmad Mezher issued a decision preventing Fakhoury from leaving the country by air, land or sea for two months. Mezher’s decision came after former inmates filed a request to prevent Fakhoury from leaving Lebanon.
It remains unclear, however, whether Fakhoury had left the country or was still on Lebanese territories.
The Military Tribunal dismissed the charges Monday, citing that a large amount of time had passed between the date when the alleged acts took place and his trial.
Khoury’s appeal states that there is a flaw in the Tribunal’s decision to acquit Fakhoury of his charges.
According to the appeal, Fakhoury’s crimes constitute crimes against humanity – one of the four core crimes recognized internationally to not have a statute of limitation.
Lebanon is also a signatory of international criminal law treaties and conventions, and is obliged to abide by them and implement them on a national level.
The submission of this appeal however, does not make the tribunal’s decision null.
The military appeals court is not bound by any timeframe to make its decision to accept or send back the request.
If the military appeals court accepts Khoury’s appeal, and it is proven that Fakhoury left Lebanon, then he will be tried in absentia.
Hezbollah condemned Fakhoury’s acquittal in a statement released Monday night.
“Since the first day of the arrest of the criminal agent and killer Amer Fakhoury, American pressure and threats began in secret and in public to force Lebanon to release him,” the statement said.
It said that pressure from the U.S. “paid off in the end," and added that the Military Tribunal’s decision was “an unexpected move” that overlooked a lot of pain. Fakhoury holds an American passport.
Several U.S. officials have complained about Fakhoury’s arrest in Lebanon in September 2019 and in February threatened to ban visas and freeze the assets of Lebanese officials involved in his detention.
“It would’ve been more honorable and useful if the head of the military court and its members resign instead of submitting to pressure that forced them to make this decision,” the Hezbollah statement said.
“This day is a sad day for Lebanon and justice.”
Fakhoury has also been accused of collaborating with Israel and joining an Israeli proxy military, was not charged for those acts because of the passage of time.
A case filed by former Khiam prisoners against Fakhoury for torturing them is still being followed up by a Beirut Investigative judge.
The 57-year-old Fakhoury’s reported poor health prevented him from attending questioning sessions that were scheduled to take place in last month. No arrest warrant has been issued for him for these charges, making him effectively a free man.
Fakhoury had been living in the United States since 2001, but was arrested in Sept. 2019 shortly after his return to Lebanon.