June 11, 2019
DUBAI (Reuters) – A Lebanese businessman detained in Iran since 2015 for alleged anti-state activity left the country on Tuesday, a Lebanese official said, after Beirut secured his release.
Nizar Zakka, who has U.S. residency, flew to Beirut with Lebanon’s security chief Abbas Ibrahim, the official told Reuters.
Zakka, who also holds U.S. residency and was sentenced in 2016 to 10 years in prison and a $4.2 million fine for “collaborating against the state”.
Lebanon’s president and foreign minister had urged Tehran to grant an amnesty to Zakka, and Iranian officials said his release was partly due to the country’s close ties with Lebanon’s Hezbollah group.
Zakka was detained in 2015 after being invited to Iran to take part in a conference. Iranian media has described him as a U.S. spy.
Last year, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said he was proposing a “serious dialogue” with the United States on a possible prisoner swap, though he did not say whether Zakka would be included.
A spokesman for Iran’s judiciary said Zakka’s release was “a totally judicial process without any political stances or (prisoner) exchange being considered.”
(Reporting by Dubai newsroom, writing by Angus McDowall in Beirut; Editing by John Stonestreet)