Iran frees Lebanese man jailed for ‘US spying’

Tehran has freed Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese national serving a jail term in Iran for espionage for the United States, following mediation efforts by President Michel Aoun of Lebanon.

Lebanon’s General Directorate of General Security (GDGS)said in a statement on social media that its head, Abbas Ibrahim, was “en route from Tehran to Lebanon, accompanied by Nizar Zakka, after his release by Iranian authorities.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Iran’s Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said a court had “agreed to Nizar Zakka’s conditional release and he will be handed over to Lebanese authorities.”

Zakka, an information technology expert and a permanent US resident, was detained in Iran in 2015 and sentenced in 2016 to 10 years in prison and a $4.2 million fine for “collaborating against the state.”

The Iranian official further said both Aoun and Zakka had filed a request for the convict’s release.

Iran examined the request within the framework of the law, said the official.

“As per the law, those who are sentenced to up to 10 years in jail, if they have served at least one-third of their term and shown good behavior” can be released conditionally.

Esmaili added that Tehran had also consulted the case with the Supreme National Security Council as well as Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance movement. Hezbollah, he said, regarded Zakka’s release as an “expedient” move.

Meanwhile, Aoun told the online el-Nashra newspaper that he had intervened to prevent the prolongation of the case.

The Lebanese president said that he had “positive interactions” with his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, regarding the case.

Aoun also said he had tasked Ibrahim to personally follow up Zakka’s case.

Ibrahim, who is in Tehran to oversee Zakka’s release, told Reuters on Tuesday morning that he would return to Lebanon with Zakka.

“The release of Nizar Zakka will take place on Tuesday after the completion of the judicial proceedings, which are nearly over,” he added.

In a post on its official Twitter account, the GDGS shared two black and white images of Zakka shaking hands with Ibrahim after a meeting on Monday night.

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