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Iran to release Lebanese US resident convicted of spying

Iran to release Lebanese US resident convicted of spying

The DC attorney for Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese national who has permanent residency in the U.S., says he's now out of prison after four years, reports the Washington Post.

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, 52, is a permanent USA resident who was accused of spying on Iran for the United States when he attended a conference in 2015.

The official says Nizar Zakka has landed at Beirut's Rafik Hariri airport aboard a private jet, accompanied by the chief of Lebanon's General Security Directorate, Maj.

Ibrahim for his part told reporters that Hizbullah had "played a role" in the case but stressed that Zakka has been freed "at President Aoun's request", dismissing an Iranian media report that claimed otherwise as "baseless".

A year after the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers ushered in a wary thaw between Washington and Tehran, five US citizens were freed in a prisoner exchange.

The Associated Press, citing a Lebanese official who spoke on condition of anonymity, reported that Zakka had been freed and was on a plane to Lebanon with Ibrahim.

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In 2015, he disappeared in Iran.

Sarah Fallah, a Lebanese lawyer who represented Zakka, told HRW in March 2016 that Iranian authorities refused to let her visit her client.

At least 11 dual and foreign nationals, or Iranians with foreign residencies, are imprisoned in Iran as of this month, according to the Center for Human Rights in Iran.

His release comes as tensions between Washington and Tehran remain high after President Trump withdrew the United States from Iran's nuclear deal with world powers.

State TV later quoted an anonymous source as saying Zakka would be released on Tuesday afternoon and will be allowed to leave Tehran.

In 2016, Iran sentenced Zakka to 10 years in prison. "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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