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Iran Frees Detained Lebanese Businessman Zakka - Lebanese Official

11 June 2019

Iran has agreed to hand over a USA permanent resident imprisoned for years in Tehran to Lebanese officials, an Iranian judiciary official said Tuesday, providing the first official confirmation that Nizar Zakka would be sent back to his native Lebanon.

Iran holds a number of dual nationals, including Iranian Americans, as well as Chinese-born USA citizen and Princeton scholar, Xiyue Wang.

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. "However, Ibrahim said Iran's freeing of Zakka was not part of any wider deal", the Reuters news agency said.

The White House says it is "thankful" for the release of a USA permanent resident from Iranian custody, but wants to see other Americans who are detained there released as well. But U.S. -Iranian tensions have risen since Washington pulled out of the nuclear pact in 2018.

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

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Zakka vanished in Iran in 2015 after attending a conference there.

Zakka is expected to head from the airport to the presidential palace where he will be received by Lebanese President Michel Aoun, who had personally requested his release.

She says "The big question is there's several others and we want to see those people released as well".

Following his arrival to Beirut, Zakka said that he is not an agent and that he was arrested in Iran under false pretenses, in a joint press conference with the Lebanese Chief of General Security Abbas Ibrahim.

She is declining to say whether the US government was involved in securing Zakka's release.

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Zakka was held at Tehran's Evin prison, a facility established in 1972.

Over the past four years, Zakka's family members have repeatedly called on the Lebanese government to negotiate for his release.

Tehran has agreed to hand over a permanent U.S. resident imprisoned for years in Tehran to Lebanese officials, AP reported.

At the end of 2017, Iranian appeal courts upheld his 10-year jail sentence, as well as those of an American and two Iranian-Americans accused of "collaboration" with the United States.

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Iran Frees Detained Lebanese Businessman Zakka - Lebanese Official