June 17, 2019

United States resident held as spy to be released

13 June 2019, 02:55 | Glen Norman

Iran Claims Abducted American ‘Spy’ Was Handed to Hezbollah

Lebanese man with US residency held in Iran to go home on Tuesday

The Iran government had alleged Zakka of having deep ties with military and intelligence services of the United States, a country that Tehran regards as an arch rival. "He met with the Lebanese Nazar Zakka and it is expected that the contacts will finish tomorrow to return to Lebanon", the source said.

Lebanon's internal security head, Major General Abbas Ibrahim, travelled to Tehran on Sunday to oversee Nizar Zakka's release on behalf of President Michel Aoun.

According to The National, Zakka - a Lebanese IT expert and specialist in Arab information and communications - was in 2016 fined $4.2 million on espionage charges, which he had denied, and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

"The move would take place in the next few hours".

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A Iranian news outlet on Monday reported that Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese-American national who had been imprisoned in Iran since 2015 on charges of working with the US intelligence service, was to be freed and handed over to Lebanon later the day.

A report Monday on the Iranian state TV's website said Zakka was to be released "only because of the respect and dignity" Iran has for the leader of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

On Nov. 3 that year, Iranian state television aired a report saying he was in custody and calling him a spy with "deep links" with US intelligence services.

The U.S. State Department said he was being held unjustly and in 2016 called for his release.

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State media reported in 2017 that Zakka had lost an appeal against his conviction.

Neither the Lebanese government nor Mr Zakka's family have made any mention of Hezbollah's role in mediation and the photos with Maj Gen Ibrahim appear to contradict the Fars report.

Last week, Lebanon's Foreign Ministry said efforts to secure Zakka's release had been successful. He had been invited to attend a conference at which President Hassan Rouhani spoke of providing more economic opportunities for women and sustainable development.

Iran says a number of its nationals are being held unjustly in the West, including at least 56 in the U.S., and has asked for their immediate release.

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