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Tuesday 20th March 2018

The Full Story: US Resident Freed by Iran Blasts Tehran

Politics

7Dnews London

Tue, 11 Jun 2019 20:56 GMT

A Lebanese man with permanent US residency who was released from Iran following several years in jail on charges of spying revealed that he was subjected to "kidnapping, arbitrary detention and a show trial".

Nizar Zakka, a freedom advocate who was detained in 2015, said, in his first comments after release, that he is more determined than ever to fight for freedom of expression, according to AP.

The Lebanese man’s release comes amid heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington after US president Trump withdrew from Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers.

As reported by AP, there has been speculation that his release is part of a wider deal between the US and Iran.

Nizar Zakka has denied that his release was part of a wider deal but suggested that it had helped avert further escalation between the US and Iran. He added that the initiative to release him was made in Lebanon.

Earlier, a Lebanese airport official confirmed his arrival to Beirut in a private jet, accompanied by the chief of Lebanon's General Security Directorate, Major General Ibrahim Abbas, who travelled to Tehran to bring him home.

Commenting on his release, the White House said it is "thankful" for his release but wants to see other Americans who are detained there released as well”.

The Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said, "The big question is, there's several others and we want to see those people released as well."

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

The details of Zakka's release is still unknown but, on Monday, state TV said Zakka was to be released "only because of the respect and dignity" Iran has for the leader of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

The state TV said that no negotiations have taken place at any level “with any person or any government".

Zakka was arrested in 2015 by Iran's Revolutionary Guard after he attended a conference in Tehran on the invitation of one of the country's vice presidents. He was convicted of spying and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

According to a report by ABC news, Zakka lives in Washington and leads the Arab ICT Organization, or IJMA3, an industry consortium from 13 countries that advocates for information technology in the region.

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

Zakka's IJMA3 organisation has received at least $730,000 in contracts and grants since 2009 from both the State Department and USAID, the lead American government agency fighting poverty and promoting democracy across the world, according ABC News.

Zakka is not the only one with dual citizenship to be detained in Iran in recent years. There are other Americans being held in Iran, mostly on spying charges.

Baquer Namazi, the former UN official and his son, Siamak Namazi, who is a businessman, were both sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2016. Also, Karen Vafadari and Afarin Neyssari, the Zoroastrian couple who own an art gallery, were jailed for 15 and 10 years in 2018. Xiyue Wang, a doctoral student, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2017 as he was conducting historical research. Morad Tahbaz, an environmental activist, was arrested in 2018.

Middle East US & Canada