Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 18 September 2019

Nizar Zakka meets Lebanon security head before release from Iran prison

The Lebanese national and US permanent resident has been in jail for almost four years

Nizar Zakka, who Iran agreed to release on Tuesday. AP
Nizar Zakka, who Iran agreed to release on Tuesday. AP

Lebanese national and US 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 nearly four years in prison in Iran.

Maj Gen Ibrahim, travelled to Tehran on Sunday to oversee his release.

A spokesperson for Mr Zakka's family confirmed he was still being held in Evin prison and would only be released moments before leaving the country.

General Security shared two black-and-white images on Monday night showing a smiling Mr Zakka shaking hands with Maj Gen Ibrahim.

On Twitter, the force said that Maj Gen Ibrahim had completed his meetings and he would return with Mr Zakka tomorrow.

Mr Zakka was detained in Iran in 2015 after arriving in the country to speak at a government conference on the invitation of officials.

Shortly after he was detained, he was charged with espionage, sentenced to 10 years in prison and handed a $4.2 million (Dh15.4m) fine.

The Lebanese national is a prominent Middle East IT specialist and has worked for US giants including Cisco and Microsoft, but has also carried out work for USAID.

He is being held in the notorious Evin prison, used to house political dissidents, activists, prominent academics who have fallen foul of the government, and foreign hostages.

The Iranian government pardoned nearly 700 prisoners for Eid, although officials said Mr Zakka was not among them.

There appears to be some tussle in Iran over his release, with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-affiliated Fars news agency reporting that the Lebanese national would be handed over to a delegation from Hezbollah and that his release came “out of respect for [the group’s leader] Hassan Nasrallah”.

Neither the Lebanese government nor Mr Zakka’s family have made any mention of Hezbollah’s role in mediation and the photos with Maj Gen Ibrahim appear to contradict the Fars report.

This story has been updated after clarification from a spokesperson for Mr Zakka's family that he is yet to be released. The National apologises for this mistake.

Updated: June 11, 2019 12:10 PM

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