Iran To Release Lebanese Man Convicted Of Spying Soon

Elias Hubbard
June 13, 2019

It 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 the other end of the line, a source familiar with the case had told the Beirut-based Daily Star on Saturday that Zakka would arrive in Beirut within 48 hours.

An earlier report by the semi-official Fars news agency said Zakka will be handed over to Hezbollah.

A resident of the United States in his 50s, Zakka was arrested in September 2015 during a visit to Iran, where he was convicted the following July.

A top Lebanese security official is in Tehran to secure Zakka's release, which has been anticipated in recent days.

"In this regard, no negotiations have taken place at any level with any person or any government", state TV said. "Extradition of the American-Lebanese spy has been made only at the request and mediation of Hezbollah Secretary-General Seyed Hassan Nasrallah".

Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese and USA permanent resident held for years in Tehran, "will be released in the coming hours" and handed over to Hezbollah, Iranian media reported Monday.

Hizbollah is the most powerful armed force in Lebanon as well as being part of the governing coalition in Beirut.

In a post on its official Twitter account, Lebanon's Directorate of General Security shared two black and white images of Zakka, who is seen shaking hands with Ibrahim after a meeting on Monday night.

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. He had just attended a conference there on the invitation of one of the country's vice presidents. "We welcome the release of any unjustly held foreign detainees in Iran".

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

Lebanon's Foreign Ministry had on Tuesday announced that Tehran had asked Lebanese authorities to send a delegation to Tehran for Zakka's repatriation.

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.

A year after a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers ushered in a wary thaw between the United States and Tehran, Iranian authorities freed five US citizens in a prisoner exchange. However, U.S. -Iranian tensions have risen anew since U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from the nuclear pact in May 2018.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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