Iran frees Lebanese IT specialist Zakka

Iran to hand over detained US resident to Lebanon – report

Iran on Tuesday freed Nizar Zakka, a US permanent resident and Lebanese national, from prison after almost four years behind bars, his lawyer said.

Lebanon's head of general security Abbas Ibrahim told Reuters on Monday that the detainee, who has USA residency, would be freed by Iran and that the two would return to Lebanon.

Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said Nizar Zakka, who has United States permanent residency, would be handed over to the Lebanese authorities. He flew out of Tehran with Lebanon's security chief Abbas Ibrahim on Tuesday.

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. In November 2015, Iranian state television announced Zakka was in Iranian custody, and accused of espionage.

Tehran has agreed to hand over a permanent USA resident imprisoned for years in Tehran to Lebanese officials, AP reported.

"The relevant court has agreed to Nizar Zakka's conditional release and he will be handed over to Lebanese authorities", Mizan Online quoted judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili as saying.


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

In his first statements following his release, Nizar Zakka, an internet freedom advocate who was arrested in 2015, says he is more determined than ever to fight for freedom of expression.

Aoun had told Zakka during the meeting: "I once said that existing without freedom is a form of the forms of death, so thank God that you have become a free man once again".

Ibrahim told Reuters news agency the release was not based on a wider prisoner swap. He was convicted of spying and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

At least 11 dual and foreign nationals, or Iranians with foreign residencies, are imprisoned in Iran as of this month, according to the Center for Human Rights in Iran.

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

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