Trump Begs Syria To Free American Journalist Austin Tice Amid Coronavirus Pandemic.
President Trump urged Syria to release American journalist and veteran U.S. Marine Corps officer, Austin Tice, who is believed to be held hostage in the country.
“Syria, please work with us. We would appreciate you letting him out,” the president said at the White House coronavirus task force’s daily briefing on Thursday.
Trump later clarified that he was not confirming that Tice is still alive.
“We’re trying to find that out,” he said. “If he is alive, we would like very much to get him back.”
Tice, 38, disappeared in Syria in 2012 while he was working as a freelance journalist. He illegally entered Syria to report on the civil war, which was then in its second year.
He intended to leave in August 2012 but was detained at a checkpoint. Five weeks later, a short video titled “Austin Tice still alive” was posted on a Syrian pro-government website. The video showed him blindfolded in a rocky mountainside being forced to recite a prayer Muslims say before dying. He then said in English, “Oh, Jesus. Oh, Jesus.”
The State Department said after his capture that it believed Tice was in the custody of the Syrian government, which has not admitted to imprisoning him.
Trump also announced Lebanese-American Amer Fakhoury, who has been detained in Lebanon since September, had been released.
Fakhoury, who has stage 4 cancer, was arrested after a Hezbollah-linked publication alleged that he tortured people imprisoned by the South Lebanon Army, a majority-Christian militia group backed by Israel in its fight against Hezbollah and Palestinian militias during the 1980s and 1990s. He was charged with murder, kidnapping, and the torture of prisoners at Khiam detention center.
Fakhoury’s lawyer said the charges were bogus.
“Amer’s only crime is that he is a United States citizen, which is making the Lebanese government hold him hostage to gain leverage over the United States,” Celine Atallah, Fakhoury’s lawyer said. “This is an egregious act of criminality by them.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Fakhoury will receive urgent medical treatment.
“His return comes as a relief to those who have followed the case with grave concern,” Pompeo said in a statement. “We are relieved to be able to welcome him back home.”