Nizar Zakka: Iran frees detained Lebanese businessman

Iran to hand over detained US resident to Lebanon – report

A Lebanese businessman detained in Iran since 2015 for alleged anti-state activity left the country on Tuesday, a Lebanese official said, after Beirut secured his release.

Zakka met with Aoun after landing in Beirut in the afternoon with security chief Abbas Ibrahim.

Lebanon's President Michel Aoun had lobbied for Iran to grant him an amnesty, and officials in Tehran said his release was partly due to the country's close ties with Lebanon's Hezbollah movement.

Nizar Zakka, an information technology specialist who holds USA residency, was sentenced to 10 years in jail and fined $4.2 million in 2016.

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His return comes after years of diplomatic efforts to free him, culminating in a flurry of announcements in which Iran and Lebanon sent conflicting messages about Mr Zakka's status.

Zakka told reporters that the initiative to release him was "born in Lebanon" and "100% a national" one, but he acknowledged that it served to de-escalate tensions between the USA and Iran.

This March 2013 handout image provided by the Friends of Nizar Zakka, shows Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese technology expert and advocate for Internet freedom, delivering a speech during the MENA ICT Forum conference in Jordan.

Ibrahim said that, while Hezbollah had played a role in the release, "the base was the request from (President) Aoun".

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In his first statements following his release, Nizar Zakka, an internet freedom advocate who was arrested in 2015, says he is more determined than ever to fight for freedom of expression.

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

The potential release of Zakka, an internet freedom advocate, comes as tensions between Iran and the United States remain high.

Zakka was held at Tehran's Evin prison, a facility established in 1972. He was accused of being a spy and a year later sentenced to 10 years in prison and handed a $4.2 million fine.

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Shahindokht Molaverdi, an adviser to President Hassan Rouhani who as a vice president invited Zakka to Iran, told the AP in September that Iran's government had "failed" to help Zakka. "We did all we could to stop this from happening, but we are seeing that we have failed to make a significant impact".

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