Two men who know something about wrongful imprisonment had many long talks

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From left, Amer Fakhoury, U.S. Sen Jeanne Shaheen of N.H., and Evan Liberty, Brian Liberty's son. (Courtesy photos)

The father of a Rochester man imprisoned in Iraq War's so-called Nisour Square massacre of 2007 said on Thursday that the Dover restaurateur now held captive in his native Lebanon was incredulous when told of the plight of Evan Liberty, who is serving a 14-year sentence at a federal prison in Pennsylvania for his part in the tragic incident.

Brian Liberty of Rochester told The Rochester Voice on Thursday that he met Lebanon To Go owner Amer Fakhoury soon after he arrived in New Hampshire from Lebanon.

Fakhoury is currently facing a death sentence for alleged torture of detainees at Lebanon's infamous Khiam prison. He was taken into custody in September after he returned to his native country. Lebanon's intelligence service arrested him soon after he arrived and say he confessed during questioning to being a Khiam prison warden. Fakhoury, who is fighting cancer, has admitted to serving in the Israeli-backed South Lebanese Army in the 1990s, but says he never tortured anyone.

Brian Liberty called Fakhoury, now a U.S. citizen, "one of the nicest caring men I've ever met."

"His love of this country and his family was the most important to him," said Brian Liberty. "When I first met him - I don't think he'd been here long - we talked a lot about the United States. We talked many, many times about Evan, and he (Fakhoury) was shocked at what they did to an American Marine who worked for a security contractor in Iraq.

Evan Liberty, 37, one of four Blackwater security guards wrongly imprisoned in the Nisour Square event, was part of a security detail sent to the square on Sept. 16, 2007, to assist another security unit that was transporting a diplomat to the Green Zone of Baghdad.

As they took up position in the square, a white Kia that was ordered to stop, continued to roll forward against orders. Because it presented an imminent threat - a bulletin on a white Kia and suicide bomber had been reported earlier in the day - a Raven 23 sharpshooter killed the Kia's driver. Then Raven 23 came under attack from insurgents dressed as Iraqi policemen. Seventeen died in the incident, including several children.

The prosecution in the case said that Raven 23 members just opened up with their automatic weapons because they panicked, but that's not likely given their history of experience in a guerrilla warfare environment. In fact, there are many flaws in the prosecution's case, including withholding exculpatory evidence, which are all on full display in the transcripts of the trial and appeal process, which still continues.

Evan was originally sentenced to a 30-year minimum sentence, but that was deemed "cruel and unusual" by an appeals court.

This past September he was resentenced, this time to 14 years, the number of years based on a vacuous and arbitrary accounting of how many died or were wounded by him, personally.

In an email sent to The Rochester Voice, Brian Liberty also said he hopes U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen is successful in her bid to gain Fakhoury's freedom, but fumed that she's never done anything for Evan.

"Correspondence sent by myself and others and never a follow up. Not even a slight interest in Evan's case or an answer from anyone," Brian Liberty wrote. "Phone calls ended quickly or hang ups when I even mentioned the case.

"And this isn't only our current voted-in (state) lawmakers in office now," he added. "It's all elected Democrats in the past years."

"But I wish the best for Amer," he added. "I hope that Amer does get out of prison and his health improves and he's able to get back to the country he loves."

Parenthetically, it should be noted that former U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta of New Hampshire, a Republican, frequently decried the wrongful prosecution and imprisonment of Evan Liberty in The Rochester Voice.

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