For the first time, Iran has officially acknowledged that it has imprisoned a U.S. permanent resident who advocates for Internet freedom.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari said Tehran "will try to speed up" the case of Lebanese citizen Nizar Zakka, who disappeared in Tehran in September after attending a government-sponsored conference.
Although no charges have been announced, Iranian media has accused him of being an American spy. His family and associates reject the allegation.
"The Iranian government will try to speed up the process of addressing this issue and provide any help possible, but ultimately a legal case should be addressed by judicial authorities," Ansari said. "Any verdict by the judicial authorities will be the final ruling and we do not intervene in judicial rulings."
Zakka heads a nonprofit group that received $730,000 in grants from the U.S. government, AP reported.
Zakka's family is pressing the U.S. government to try to obtain his release, arguing he was arrested because of his U.S. ties.
They said Zakka traveled to Iran "with the knowledge and approval of the U.S. State Department, and his trip was funded by grants" from it.