Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese national and US resident arrested in Iran in 2015, arrives in Beirut, Lebanon after his release, June 11, 2019 (Anwar Amro/AFP)
Iran has freed one of the foreign and dual nationals in its prisons, Lebanese businessman Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese national.
Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said a court had “agreed to Nizar Zakka’s conditional release and he will be handed over to Lebanese authorities”.
The head of Lebanon’s General Directorate of General Security, Abbas Ibrahim, accompanied Zakka from Tehran to Lebanon.
An Iranian official said, “As per the law, those who are sentenced to up to 10 years in jail [can be freed] if they have served at least one-third of their term and shown good behavior.” Iranian State media said the release followed mediation by Lebanese President Michel Aoun.
Zakka, an information technology expert and permanent US resident, was seized in Iran in September 2015. He was sentenced in July 2016 to 10 years in prison and a $4.2 million fine for “collaborating against the state”.
His family said Zakka — the head of The Arab ICT Organization, a non-profit that advocates the growth and development of information and communications technology in the Middle East — was arrested after he participated in a conference in Tehran at the invitation of Vice President Shahindokht Molaverdi.
Esmaili said Iranian authorities had also consulted the Iranian Supreme National Security Council and Tehran’s Lebanese ally Hezbollah about Zakka’s status.
The judiciary official said Hezbollah regarded the IT specialist’s release as an “expedient” move.
Other Foreign and Dual Nationals Still Held
The Trump Administration said it is “thankful” for Zakka’s release from Iranian custody, but White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders added, “The big question is there’s several others and we want to see those people released as well.”
Iran released five American and Iranian-American nationals in January 2016, when the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and the 5+1 Powers (US, UK, France, Germany, China, and Russia).
But Iranian security services detained other foreign and dual nationals before and after the agreement’s implementation.
*Anglo-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, seized in April 2016 and serving a 5-year sentence
*Iranian-American oil executive Siamak Namazi and his father Baquer, 82, a former UN official, both condemned to 10 years
*American Xijue Wang, a Ph.D. candidate in history, also serving 10 years
*Iranian-American-British environmentalist Morad Tahbaz, arrested with eight colleagues in January 2018
*American navy veteran Michael White, imprisoned in July 2018
*Swedish-Iranian scientist Ahmedreza Djalali, sentenced to death
*Austrian-Iranian IT specialist Kamran Ghaderi, serving 10 years.
Authorities have also detained permanent residents of other countries such as British Council staffer Aras Amiri (UK) and web designer Saeed Malekpour (Canada).