World Media

Lebanese businessman Nizar Zakka leaves Iran for Beirut after his release

Mideast Iran Lebanese Detained

Ibrahim was to escort Zakka to Lebanon Tuesday, the Reuters news agency reported.

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

"We reviewed the (Lebanese) president's request through the Supreme National Security Council", Esmaili said.

A Lebanese businessman with permanent U.S. residency who was imprisoned in Iran for several years for alleged anti-state activity was released Tuesday, his lawyer said.

Freed Lebanese businessman Nizar Zakka, who was detained in Iran since 2015 for alleged anti-state activity, is pictured with Major General Abbas Ibrahim, Lebanon's internal security chief, aboard the plane in this handout released by Lebanese General Security Directorate on June 11, 2019.

Iran on Tuesday freed an IT expert accused of spying for the US.

"This is in no way approved by the government", Molaverdi said.

"A court has accepted the condition of freedom of Nizar Zakka and he will be handed over to Lebanese officials", Gholamhossein Esmaili told the judiciary's Mizan news agency. He had just attended a conference there at the invitation of one of the country's vice presidents.

Zakka, who also holds USA residency and was sentenced in 2016 to 10 years in prison and a $4.2 million fine for "collaborating against the state". The leader of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah has not made public comments about Zakka's imprisonment, but pro-Hezbollah media have said that Nasrallah had in recent days urged the Iranians to facilitate his release.

Sarah Fallah, a Lebanese lawyer who represented Zakka, told HRW in March 2016 that Iranian authorities refused to let her visit her client.

A report Monday on state TV's website mirrored a report earlier carried by Iran's semi-official Fars news agency about Zakka, who was arrested in September 2015 while trying to fly out of Tehran.

He has worked for United States technology and telecoms giants such as Cisco and Microsoft, but has also had contracts with USAid, the American government development agency.

The source said that negotiations to secure Mr Zakka's release picked up early in May, when Mr Bassil asked the Iranian ambassador to Lebanon, Mohammad Firouznia, for a special amnesty during Eid Al Fitr.

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

Although Iran has recently portrayed Zakka's case as a matter between Iran and Lebanon, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in 2016 said it was a problem mainly between Tehran and Washington. Relations have deteriorated sharply since US President Donald Trump took office in January 2017.

"This doesn't mean Abe directly intervened for Zakka's release, but that perhaps this was a signal from Tehran that they were ready to start negotiating over issues such as hostages".