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Nizar Zakka: Iran frees detained Lebanese businessman

11 June 2019

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

Lebanon's head of general security Abbas Ibrahim told Reuters on Monday that the detainee, who has USA residency, would be freed by Iran and that the two would return to Lebanon.

A Lebanese airport official says a Lebanese businessman and US resident freed by Iran has arrived in Beirut.

Zakka, who lives in Washington and holds resident status in the USA, leads the Arab ICT Organization, or IJMA3, an industry consortium from 13 countries that advocates for information technology in the region.

Zakka met with Aoun after landing in Beirut in the afternoon with security chief Abbas Ibrahim.

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

Zakka was detained in 2015 after being invited to Iran to take part in a conference.

An Iranian judiciary spokesman says Iran has agreed to hand over a US permanent resident imprisoned for years to Lebanese officials.

Zakka is expected to head from the airport to the presidential palace where he will be received by Lebanese President Michel Aoun, who had personally requested his release.

Zakka was held at Tehran's Evin prison, a facility established in 1972.

State TV, like Fars, both quoted an anonymous source saying Zakka's forthcoming release should only be seen as a "sign of respect" for the Lebanese militant Hezbollah group and its leader, Hassan Nasrallah.

Iran's Revolutionary Guard detained Zakka in 2015 after he attended a conference in Tehran on the invitation of one of the country's vice presidents.

Esmaili stressed Zakka's release was within "the frame of the law".

Iran's judiciary has earlier approved the conditional release of Zakka, who was sentenced to 10 years in jail in 2016 on charges of spying for Washington, its news agency reported Tuesday.

The U.S. State Department had also called for Zakka to be freed, saying he was unjustly held.

In 2016, he was sentenced to ten years in prison and ordered to pay a fine of $4.2m for espionage.

The US government has also been vocal in calling for Zakka's release.

Nizar Zakka: Iran frees detained Lebanese businessman