Iran to hand over Lebanese prisoner to Hezbollah soon

Cheryl Sanders
June 13, 2019

Lebanon's internal security chief Abbas Ibrahim was in Tehran to negotiate Zakka's release on Monday, and he would be freed late on Monday or early on Tuesday and put in Ibrahim's custody, the security official said.

The security agency also posted pictures of the Ibrahim-Zakka meeting on its Twitter account.

Lebanese national and USA permanent resident Nizar Zakka met with Lebanon's head of General Security, Maj Gen Abbas Ibrahim, on Monday evening just hours before he was set for release after almost four years in prison in Iran.

"This is done exclusively because of the respect for and dignity of Hassan Nasrallah (Iran-backed Hezbollah's leader)", the source told Fars.

Asked about the Fars report, Ibrahim said it had caused "confusion".

Last April, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told Reuters he was proposing "a serious dialogue" with the United States on a possible prisoner swap, though he did not say whether Zakka might be included.

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei pardoned 691 prisoners on the occasion of the end of Ramadan, but Zakka was not among them, authorities said Sunday.

Nizar Zakka was detained in Tehran in 2015. Iranian media said later he had been detained by the Revolutionary Guards for alleged ties to US security services. He was sentenced in 2016 to 10 years in prison and a $4.2 million fine.

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

A Lebanese citizen with U.S. residency detained in Iran since 2015 is expected to return home on Tuesday, a Lebanese official source said, after Lebanon's security chief met officials in Tehran.

Nizar Zakka, a a 52-year-old resident of Washington D.C. and a Green Card holder, was arrested in September 2015 during a visit to Iran for a conference on women and sustainable development. But that turned out to be from a homecoming event at Zakka's prep school, the Riverside Military Academy in Georgia, according to the school's president.

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