Iran Frees Detained Lebanese Businessman Zakka - Lebanese Official

Iran Frees Detained Lebanese Businessman Zakka - Lebanese Official

Iran on Tuesday freed Nizar Zakka, a US permanent resident and Lebanese national, from prison after almost four years behind bars, his lawyer said.

Earlier Tuesday, an Iranian judiciary official confirmed that Tehran has agreed to hand over Zakka to Lebanese officials, providing the first official confirmation of his release, which had been anticipated for days.

Nizar Zakka, 52, is a permanent US resident who was accused of spying on Iran for the United States when he attended a conference in 2015. He flew out of Tehran with Lebanon's security chief Abbas Ibrahim on Tuesday. His potential release comes as tensions between Iran and the USA remain high in the wake of President Trump withdrawing America from Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers.

Zakka flashed reporters the victory sign and hugged his brother Ziad before he went into the meeting with Aoun, who had personally requested his release.

"According to the law, those who are sentenced to up to 10 years in jail, if they have served at least one third of their sentence and shown good behavior" can be released conditionally.

The Associated Press, citing a Lebanese official who spoke on condition of anonymity, reported that Zakka had been freed and was on a plane to Lebanon with Ibrahim.

At the time of his arrest, Iranian state television said he was accused of "deep ties to the military and intelligence services of the United States".

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

Zakka, a computer scientist and Internet freedom advocate, was detained in Tehran after attending a conference at the invitation of the Iranian government.

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.

Ibrahim told Reuters news agency the release was not based on a wider prisoner swap.

Zakka is one of several prisoners with either dual nationality or links to the West held in Iran. "We did all we could to stop this from happening, but we are seeing that we have failed to make a significant impact".

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