Iran frees USA resident Nizar Zakka from prison, lawyer says

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Iran frees USA resident Nizar Zakka from prison, lawyer says

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. He denied the charges, while Iranian media have described him as a US spy.

Zakka was detained in 2015 after being invited to Iran to take part in a conference.

"A court has accepted the condition of freedom of Nizar Zakka and he will be handed over to Lebanese officials", Esmaili said, according to the judiciary's Mizan news agency. There was no immediate comment from US authorities on his release.

The White House says it is "thankful" for the release of a USA permanent resident from Iranian custody, but wants to see other Americans who are detained there released as well.

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

Zakka's release comes amid heightened tensions between Iran and the US after America's withdrawal from Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers.

"We reviewed the (Lebanese) president's request through the Supreme National Security Council" Esmaili said.

Zakka is set to return to Beirut on Tuesday, alongside Lebanon's General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim, who accompanied the ex-prisoner on a government jet.

The statement claimed that Zakka, who graduated from the Riverside Military Academy of Gainesville in Georgia, had "deep links" with United States military and intelligence agencies.

Zakka has been imprisoned in Iran since 2015.

An Iranian judiciary spokesman says Iran has agreed to hand over a USA permanent resident imprisoned for years to Lebanese officials. His release comes as tensions between Iran and the USA remain high after President Donald Trump withdrew America from Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers.

State TV, like Fars, both quoted an anonymous source saying Zakka's forthcoming release should only be seen as a "sign of respect" for the Lebanese militant Hezbollah group and its leader, Hassan Nasrallah.

Over the past four years, Zakka's family members have repeatedly called on the Lebanese government to negotiate for his release. He had just attended a conference there on the invitation of one of the country's vice presidents. 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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