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Detained Lebanese national Nizar Zakka leaves Iran for Beirut

Detained Lebanese national Nizar Zakka leaves Iran for Beirut”

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

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

Lebanon's President Michel Aoun had lobbied for Iran to grant him an amnesty, and officials in Tehran said his release was partly due to the country's close ties with Lebanon's Hezbollah movement.

Zakka was arrested in 2015 and convicted of spying for the US government - charges he denies.

He flew out of Tehran with Lebanon's security chief Abbas Ibrahim on Tuesday.

Zakka was detained in 2015 after being invited to Iran to take part in a conference. There was no immediate comment from US authorities on his release.

Iran says several its nationals are being held unjustly in the West, including at least 56 in the United States, and has asked for their immediate release. 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.

But Iranian newspaper Sobh-e No asserted that his release was secured only following the intervention of Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Iran-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

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. The conditions of Zakka's release were not specified.

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

A USA permanent resident and Lebanese businessman who was released from Iran following several years imprisonment says he was subjected to "kidnapping, arbitrary detention and a show trial".

Sarah Fallah, a Lebanese lawyer who represented Zakka, told HRW in March 2016 that Iranian authorities refused to let her visit her client. He was accused of being a spy and a year later sentenced to 10 years in prison and handed a $4.2 million fine.

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



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