In a recent speech, Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah blamed U.S. pressure for the release of former South Lebanon Army (SLA) member and American citizen Amer Fakhoury.
Fakhoury, also referred to as the “Butcher of Kiam”, was accused by Hezbollah of torturing prisoners at the Kiam Prison during Israel’s occupation of south Lebanon. After Israel’s unilateral withdrawal in 2000, Fakhoury fled to the U.S. fearing reprisal from Hezbollah for his alleged activities at Kiam.
In late 2019, Fakhoury visited Lebanon and was arrested despite receiving prior assurance from the Lebanese government he would not be detained if he visited the country.
In mid-March a judge ordered his release because the crimes he was accused of occurred more than 10 years ago. After his release Fakhoury was transferred to the American Embassy in Beirut and immediately flown out of the country via a U.S Marine V-22 Osprey.
Nasrallah took to the airwaves soon after Fakhoury’s release and chided the Lebanese government for giving into U.S. pressure.
“The Americans pressured everyone who could have influence on Fakhoury,” Nasrallah charged. “They directly threatened anyone who could hinder his release with sanctions.”
Furthermore Nasrallah disavowed that Hezbollah had knowledge of a deal between the U.S. and Lebanon’s government.
“We had no knowledge of a deal regarding the release of Amer Fakhoury. What we’re aware of is the lack of any such deal. We were therefore not a part of any deal to secure his release, because no such deal existed to begin with,” he said.
Nasrallah acknowledged that it was suggested that Hezbollah shoot down the U.S. military aircraft transferring Fakhoury. He ultimately deferred on taking military action on the basis that it was not in the interest of Hezbollah and Lebanon.
“Another genius idea was that Hezbollah should have downed the U.S. helicopter that extracted Fakhoury. Would doing that have been in the interests of Lebanon or the Resistance?”
It is unlikely Fakhoury’s release would have been granted without the prior approval of Hezbollah and its allies. Hezbollah’s denial that they were aware that a “deal existed” for the release of Fakhoury absolved it from any responsibility as a “resistance” group. It also allowed Hezbollah to avert any potential fall out for not intervening against the release of an alleged war criminal.
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