Iran frees Lebanese man, USA resident imprisoned for spying

Iran frees Lebanese man, USA resident imprisoned for spying

Gen. Ibrahim Abbas, heading to the Lebanese capital, according to a photo released by the directorate on its official Twitter page.

Lebanese citizen and permanent United States resident Nizar Zakka, who was imprisoned for years in Iran, has been freed and is on his way back to his native Lebanon, officials confirmed.

Shortly after he was detained, he was charged with espionage, sentenced to 10 years in prison and given a $4.2 million (Dh15.4m) fine.

The comment on Tuesday from Gholamhossein Esmaili is the first official confirmation that Nizar Zakka would be sent back to Lebanon, years after his internationally criticized spying conviction.

Zakka vanished in Iran in 2015 after attending a conference there.

Iranian media has described him as a US spy.

The Associated Press, citing a Lebanese official who spoke on condition of anonymity, reported that Zakka had been freed and was on a plane to Lebanon with Ibrahim.


He also denied information disseminated by semi-official Fars News Agency, which reported that Zakka would be transferred to Hezbollah.

Zakka's family and human rights groups have dismissed the allegations as baseless.

"We hope that Mr. Zakka's release is a positive sign for American detainees in Iran", it added, referring to several USA citizens who remain in detention in Iran.

General Security confirmed Zakka's imminent return and said he was set to meet Lebanese President Michel Aoun at Baabda Palace.

A spokesman for Iran's judiciary said Zakka's release was "a totally judicial process without any political stances or (prisoner) exchange being considered".

"Mr. president, my family and I owe you for the rest of my life for what you did in order for me to win my freedom", Zakka said after the meeting.

He is one of several prisoners with either dual nationality or links to the West held in Iran.


After a short meeting with Lebanese President Michel Aoun, Mr Zakka told the state-run National News Agency that there were no grounds to Iranian accusations of his being a USA spy. "There is some debate in Iran about whether Zakka should be released without any compensation".

State TV later quoted an anonymous source as saying Zakka would be released on Tuesday afternoon and will be allowed to leave Tehran.

Zakka, who lives in Washington and holds resident status in the US, leads the Arab ICT Organization, or IJMA3, an industry consortium from 13 countries that advocates for information technology in the region.

Ziad Zakka, brother of Nizar Zakka who is imprisoned in Iran, shows a photo of his brother on his cellular telephone in Beirut, Lebanon, on July 18, 2017.

Zakka has been imprisoned in Iran since 2015.

"Suddenly, news emerges that he's being released to Lebanese government officials", Ms Dagres said.


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