Iran releases U.S. resident accused of spying

Erika Holt
June 12, 2019

Secretary-General of Hezbollah Hassan Nasrallah is reported to have intervened to release a Lebanese business who has detained in Iran on charges on spying for the US.

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

The move to free Zakka, 52, follows a months-long effort by Lebanese officials to negotiate his release.

Zakka, an information technology specialist who also has U.S. residency, had been detained on charges of anti-state activity. An Iranian judiciary official provided on Tuesday the first official confirmation that Nizar Zakka would be sent back to his native Lebanon. He denied the charges, while Iranian media have described him as a USA spy.

An Iranian judiciary spokesman says Iran has agreed to hand over a US permanent resident imprisoned for years to Lebanese officials.

Ibrahim said that, while Hezbollah had played a role in the release, "the base was the request from (President) Aoun".

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"A court has accepted the condition of freedom of Nizar Zakka and he will be handed over to Lebanese officials", judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said, according to the judiciary's Mizan news agency.

Zakka was detained in 2015 after being invited to Iran to take part in a conference.

In April, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told Reuters he was proposing "serious dialogue" with Washington on a possible prisoner swap without saying if it would include Zakka.

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".

Iran says several its nationals are being held unjustly in the West, including at least 56 in the United States, and has asked for their immediate release. "We did all we could to stop this from happening, but we are seeing that we have failed to make a significant impact".

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