Shaheen & Cruz Announce Biting Sanctions Against Lebanese Officials Complicit in the Unlawful Detention & Abuse of U.S. Citizens

February 24, 2020

Shaheen’s Bipartisan Sanctions Legislation Comes in Response to Lebanon’s Refusal to Free Dover, NH Business Owner, Amer Fakhoury Who is Wrongfully Detained by the Lebanese Government and is in Rapidly Declining Health

Shaheen Has Worked with White House Officials and the State Department to Help Secure Fakhoury’s Freedom & Raised His Case Multiple Times in Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Subcommittee Hearings

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations, Appropriations and Armed Services committees, introduced new bipartisan legislation today with Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), also a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that would impose sanctions against Lebanese officials who are involved in the unlawful detainment, arrest or abuse of any United States citizen in Lebanon. The Senators’ legislation – the Zero Tolerance for Unlawful Detentions of U.S. Citizens in Lebanon Act (Zero Tolerance Act) – comes in response to Lebanese officials’ refusal to free United States citizen and Dover, New Hampshire resident Amer Fakhoury, who has been illegally detained in Beirut since September 2019 and is suffering from stage 4 cancer. 

Amer Fakhoury, a well-known and well-liked small business owner from Dover, New Hampshire, was visiting Lebanon in September 2019 when his U.S. passport was confiscated. Soon after, he was taken into custody and tortured by Lebanese security officials and has since been illegally detained in Beirut. While in prison, it was discovered that he was suffering from stage 4 cancer—his symptoms exasperated by the beating he received at the hands of Lebanese security officials looking to extract a false confession related to his time working against Hezbollah as a young, South Lebanon Army officer in Lebanon. Earlier this year, the Lebanese military court charged Amer with unsubstantiated crimes that carry a punishment of death without producing any material evidence to back these allegations. Amer’s case has unfortunately been exploited by the terrorist organization Hezbollah in order to exacerbate ethnic and political tensions in Lebanon during this critical time in the country’s history. Since September, Shaheen has been working with the White House and the State Department. She has also raised his case with top State officials during a Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee hearing and with Dorothy Shea – the new ambassador to Lebanon who will soon take over for Elizabeth Richard – during her confirmation hearing

“The U.S. Government has provided ample opportunity for Lebanese officials to free Amer Fakhoury. However, Amer is fighting for his life and time is running out. Lebanon’s officials know that their behavior – which is motivated by Hezbollah’s desire to sow discord in Lebanon – are illegal even under their own laws. There must be consequences for this flagrant disregard of international norms and human rights. Anytime a U.S citizen is wrongfully arrested, detained or abused by a foreign government, we must use every tool at our disposal to bring that person home and ensure they are not used as pawns in political games. That’s why today I’m introducing bipartisan legislation with Senator Cruz to impose visa bans and asset freezes against those culpable in Amer’s illegal imprisonment,” said Shaheen. “It’s past time for Amer Fakhoury to be released, reunited with this family and brought home to the United States to receive the medical treatment he desperately needs.” 

“Protecting American citizens both at home and abroad is the most fundamental responsibility of our government, and there is nothing I take more seriously,” Cruz said. “The taking of American hostages is completely unacceptable, and I’m committed to doing all that is necessary to ensure that this vital bipartisan legislation is signed into law.” 

“Amer Fakhoury is a husband, father, small business owner and beloved member of his community. He is an American citizen being held hostage on outrageous, fictitious charges. His health is deteriorating and time is of the essence to bring him home. We appreciate Senator Shaheen and Cruz’s advocacy and are encouraged by this latest effort to hold Lebanese officials accountable and push them to release Amer so he can be with his wife and daughters as he fights for his health. Understanding the urgency of the situation, we hope this bill moves quickly through Congress before it’s too late,” said the Fakhoury family

Specifically, the Zero Tolerance Act would authorize visa bans and/or asset freezes on any current or former officials of the Lebanese government or Lebanese judiciary system who are involved in or facilitated the wrongful, unlawful or inhumane arrest, detention or abuse of a U.S citizen in Lebanon. The sanctions could also be extended to family members and associates of these individuals. 

Text of the legislation is available here.