2 Americans Imprisoned in Iran, Lebanon Released

An American jailed for months in Lebanon was released from custody on March 19, while a Navy veteran was granted medical furlough from an Iran prison, U.S. officials said.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that Michael White, imprisoned more than a year ago for insulting Irans supreme leader, was released to the Swiss Embassy as part of a furlough that will require him to remain in Iran. The U.S. will work for his full release, Pompeo said.

The other American was Amer Fakhoury, a New Hampshire restaurant owner who had faced decades-old murder and torture charges in Lebanon that he denies. He was ordered released by a judge because more than 10 years had passed since the crimes he was accused of committing.

The Trump administration trumpeted the twin releases, though done in different countries and for different reasons, as part of its efforts to secure the release of Americans held hostage or imprisoned abroad. Officials including President Donald Trump used the occasion to name additional Americans they want released, including journalist Austin Tice, who went missing in Syria in 2012.

“I want to let everyone know that recovering Americans held captive and imprisoned abroad continues to be a top priority for my administration,” Trump said at a news conference.

Whites release, though temporary for the moment, came as Iran has furloughed tens of thousands of prisoners while struggling with the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus that Iranian officials fear could kill millions.

The Epoch Times refers to the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, as the CCP virus because the Chinese Communist Partys coverup and mismanagement allowed the virus to spread throughout China and create a global pandemic.

Cabinet members wearing masks attend their meeting in Tehran, Iran, on March 18, 2020. (Office of the Iranian Presidency via AP)

White, of Imperial Beach, California, was detained in Iran while visiting a girlfriend there in July 2018. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for insulting Irans supreme leader and posting private information; the State Department said he was serving a 13-year sentence. His mother had called for Whites immediate release in an interview with The Associated Press this month, saying she was concerned about the well-being of her son and that he had been battling cancer.

“He is in very good spirits, but has some pretty sustained health conditions that are going to require some attention,” Brian Hook, the U.S. special envoy for Iran, said on a conference call. Hook said White would be evaluated by doctors.

Fakhoury was on his way back to the U.S. after a judge in Lebanon ordered him released. Fakhoury had been accused of torturing prisoners at a jail run by an Israeli-backed militia two-decades ago. He had been imprisoned since September after returning to Lebanon to visit family.

Lawmakers in Washington had threatened to withhold critical aid to Lebanon and impose sanctions on the Lebanese military, which is seen by the Trump administration as a bulwark against the Iranian-backed Hezbollah movement.

“Anytime a U.S citizen is wrongfully detained by a foreign government, we must use every tool at our disposal to free them,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H) who had worked for his release. “Im very glad that Amer is finally coming home and will be reunited with his family. No family should have to go through what the Fakhoury family has gone through.”

His oldest daughter, Guila Fakhoury, told the AP by phone, “We are so happy. Its a dream.”

Fakhoury was diagnosed with Stage 4 lymphoma and had been hospitalized in Lebanon. Trump said Fakhoury “will now be able to receive the much needed care and treatment in the United States.”

“Weve been working very hard to get him freed, and hes finally able to have his entire family at his side,” Trump said.

A Lebanese flag flies over Khiam prison in the southern town of Khiam, Lebanon, on Aug. 16, 2006. (Nasser Nasser/File/AP Photo)

Fakhoury was ordered to be released Monday because more than 10 years had passed since he allegedly tortured prisoners at a jail run by the South Lebanon Army militia. But he was not immediately allowed to leave the country after a Lebanese military judge on Tuesday appealed the decision, asking a military tribunal to strike down the decision to free Fakhoury.

The parliamentary bloc of Hezbollah criticized the military tribunal for what it called “succumbing” to U.S. demands to release Fakhoury, describing him as “an agent who betrayed his country.” Hezbollah lawmakers called on concerned authorities to hold the tribunal accountable.

Hours before Shaheen announced Fakhourys release, a U.S. Marine Osprey was seen taking off from the U.S. Embassy compound northeast of Beirut. He was bRead More – Source

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