A Lebanese businessman who has been detained in Tehran since 2015 on charges of collaborating with the West against the Islamic Republic of Iran arrived in Beirut, after the Lebanese government secured his release. Nizar Zakka, an information technology specialist who holds U.S. residency, was sentenced to 10 years in jail and was fined 4.2 million dollars in 2016.
While Iranian media outlets described Zakka as an American spy, he vehemently denied the charges levelled against him. He said: “I am still the same. I am neither a spy nor do I accept bribes. I will not go into the details of the kidnapping and detention and false (Iranian) accusations and the investigation and the mock trials.”
Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun lobbied for Iran to grant the alleged American spy an amnesty, and officials in Tehran said his release was partly due to the country’s close ties with Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement. Nevertheless, Lebanon’s top intelligence official insisted that it was the Lebanese President who secured his release. According to Lebanese General Security Directorate Chief, Abbas Ibrahim: “I have to reiterate that the president made a wish (to Iran) – and (Hezbollah chief) Sayyed (Nasrallah) supported his wish – in all honestly, for sure Hezbollah had a role but the main request came from the President.”
The United States applauded the release of Nizar Zakka as a “great day” for him and his family and said it hopes the move is a positive sign for Americans detained by the Islamic Republic of Iran.