Published: Wed, June 12, 2019

Nizar Zakka: Iran frees detained Lebanese businessman

Nizar Zakka: Iran frees detained Lebanese businessman

Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said Nizar Zakka, who has USA permanent residency, would be handed over to the Lebanese authorities.

Iran on Tuesday freed Nizar Zakka, a US permanent resident and Lebanese national, from prison after almost four years behind bars, his lawyer said. "However, Ibrahim said Iran's freeing of Zakka was not part of any wider deal", the Reuters news agency said.

She is declining to say whether the US government was involved in securing Zakka's release.

Meanwhile, head of the Lebanese General Security, General Abbas Ibrahim left Beirut on Sunday heading for Tehran to complete efforts to release Zakka.

Earlier Tuesday, an Iranian judiciary official confirmed that Tehran has agreed to hand over Zakka to Lebanese officials, providing the first official confirmation of his release, which had been anticipated for days.

The official says Nizar Zakka has landed at Beirut's Rafik Hariri airport aboard a private jet, accompanied by the chief of Lebanon's General Security Directorate, Maj. The 52-year-old was being handed over to Lebanese officials.

"Some local media has speculated that Zakka's release would also involve the freeing of another Lebanese citizen in the United States".

Zakka, a computer scientist and Internet freedom advocate, was detained in Tehran after attending a conference at the invitation of the Iranian government.

Esmaili stressed Zakka's release was within "the frame of the law".

Zakka was held at Tehran's Evin prison, a facility established in 1972.

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

Zakka has been imprisoned in Iran since 2015.

In 2016, he was sentenced to ten years in prison and ordered to pay a fine of $4.2m for espionage.

Iran holds a number of dual nationals, including Iranian Americans, as well as Chinese-born USA citizen and Princeton scholar, Xiyue Wang.

"This is in no way approved by the government", Molaverdi said.

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