Freed US resident blasts Iran over detention

FILE Ziad Zakka brother of Nizar Zakka who is imprisoned in Iran shows

A Lebanese businessman with permanent U.S. residency who was imprisoned in Iran for several years for alleged anti-state activity was released Tuesday, his lawyer said. He flew out of Tehran with Lebanon's security chief Abbas Ibrahim on Tuesday.

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.

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.

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

The United States subsequently called for his release.

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.

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Zakka flashed reporters the victory sign and hugged his brother Ziad before he went into the meeting with Aoun, who had personally requested his release. 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.

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

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

Ibrahim told Reuters on Monday he was also working on securing the release of four Lebanese citizens detained in the UAE and Qatar, as well as the case of businessman Kassim Tajideen, who is in a U.S prison.

In April, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told Reuters he was proposing "serious dialogue" with Washington on a possible prisoner swap without saying if it would include Zakka.

"This is in no way approved by the government", Molaverdi said.

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