Iran has agreed to release technology expert Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese national who is serving a 10-year prison sentence on charges of spying for the United States, Lebanon’s government says.
The Lebanese Foreign Ministry said on June 4 that Zakka was pardoned at Beirut’s request as a goodwill gesture for this week's Eid al-Fitr festival, which marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Zakka's lawyer, Majed Dimashkiyeh, has said that Zakka was expected to be released after mediation efforts by Lebanese officials, including President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
Zakka, 52, had been a Washington, D.C. resident and a U.S. Green Card holder.
He was head of an Arab IT organization that advocated for Internet development in the Middle East.
He was detained in September 2015 in Tehran after attending a government-organized conference on entrepreneurship in which he was a panelist.
After a court convicted him of espionage in September 2016, Zakka was sentenced to 10 years in prison and handed a $4.2 million fine.
He denied the charges.
The U.S. State Department at the time said it was troubled by the news of Zakka's sentencing and demanded his release.
U.S. officials have demanded the release of several Iranian-American dual citizens being held on various charges in Iran.
The news of Zakka’s expected release come at a time of heightened tensions between Iran and the United States.
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