Iran to hand over detained USA resident to Lebanon

Mideast Iran Lebanese Detained

Nizar Zakka, the Lebanese IT professional detained in Iran, landed in Beirut on Tuesday, bringing an end to a near four-year ordeal.

Meanwhile, head of the Lebanese General Security, General Abbas Ibrahim left Beirut on Sunday heading for Tehran to complete efforts to release Zakka.

Zakka, who also holds USA residency and was sentenced in 2016 to 10 years in prison and a $4.2 million fine for "collaborating against the state".

Although Iran has recently portrayed Zakka's case as a matter between Iran and Lebanon, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in 2016 said it was a problem mainly between Tehran and Washington.

In 2016, The Associated Press reported that Zakka's supporters wrote to then-Secretary of State John Kerry, stating Zakka traveled to Iran "with the knowledge and approval of the U.S. State Department, and his trip was funded by grants" from it.

Zakka was arrested in 2015 and convicted of spying for the US government - charges he denies.

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

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Lebanese media reported that Zakka had been pardoned at the request of Lebanon's President, Michel Aoun.

He was arrested on the way to the airport and later sentenced to 10 years behind bars on espionage charges in a closed-door trial. Subsequently, an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp-affiliated news agency said they would hand Mr Zakka over to Hezbollah officials, only for the judiciary to say he would be handed to Maj Gen Ibrahim.

In 2015, he disappeared in Iran.

Aoun had told Zakka during the meeting: "I once said that existing without freedom is a form of the forms of death, so thank God that you have become a free man once again".

The United States subsequently called for his release.

Zakka has been imprisoned in Iran since 2015.

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