Wednesday, 19 June, 2019


Iran Frees Detained Lebanese Businessman Zakka - Lebanese Official

Iran to hand over detained US resident to Lebanon – report Iran to release Lebanese US resident convicted of spying
Bennie Garza | 11 June, 2019, 20:57

A Lebanese businessman detained in Tehran since 2015 on charges of collaborating against Iran arrived in Beirut on Tuesday, after his government secured his release.

In 2016, The Associated Press reported that Zakka's supporters wrote to then-Secretary of State John Kerry, stating Zakka travelled to Iran "with the knowledge and approval of the U.S. State Department, and his trip was funded by grants" from the department.

An Iranian judiciary official provided on Tuesday the first official confirmation that Nizar Zakka would be sent back to his native Lebanon. There was no immediate comment from USA authorities on his release.

Zakka was arrested in 2015 and convicted of spying for the US government - charges he denies.

The statement comes as a senior Lebanese security official is in Tehran to secure Zakka's release, which has been anticipated for days.

Sarah Fallah, a Lebanese lawyer who represented Zakka, told HRW in March 2016 that Iranian authorities refused to let her visit her client.

Lebanese media reported that Zakka had been pardoned at the request of Lebanon's President, Michel Aoun.

She says "The big question is there's several others and we want to see those people released as well".

A Lebanese official says a US permanent resident imprisoned for years in Iran is free and on his way to Lebanon.

Following his arrival to Beirut, Zakka said that he is not an agent and that he was arrested in Iran under false pretenses, in a joint press conference with the Lebanese Chief of General Security Abbas Ibrahim.

Zakka has been imprisoned in Iran since 2015.

Zakka was held at Tehran's Evin prison, a facility established in 1972. Both the Congress and the Senate passed resolutions in 2017 calling for the unconditional release of U.S. citizens and residents detained in Iran, including the Lebanese national.

His release comes as tensions between Washington and Tehran remain high after President Trump withdrew the U.S. from Iran's nuclear deal with world powers. He had just attended a conference there on the invitation of one of the country's vice presidents.

On Monday, state TV said Zakka was to be released "only because of the respect and dignity" Iran has for the leader of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

At the end of 2017, Iranian appeal courts upheld his 10-year jail sentence, as well as those of an American and two Iranian-Americans accused of "collaboration" with the United States.

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