NIAC Welcomes Release of U.S. Resident After Four Years Imprisonment in Iran

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, June 11, 2019
CONTACT: Mana Mostatabi | 202.386.6325 x103 | mmostatabi@niacouncil.org

Washington DC – Today, news broke that a Lebanese-born U.S. permanent resident was released after spending nearly four years in Iran’s notorious Evin prison. Zakka, a 52-year-old IT specialist, was originally detained in 2015 after arriving in Iran to speak at a conference at the invitation of government officials. He was falsely charged with espionage, sentenced to ten years in prison, and reportedly hit with a fine in excess of $4 million.

In response to Zakka’s release, President of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) Jamal Abdi issued the following statement:

NIAC welcomes the release of Lebanese national and U.S. permanent resident Nizar Zakka after four years of unjust imprisonment in Iran. Like the many dual nationals who have been arrested in Iran on fraudulent charges, Zakka’s case was exceptionally cruel. He travelled to Iran upon the invitation of a senior Rouhani administration official for a conference, only to be arrested by the Revolutionary Guards and falsely accused of espionage.

Zakka endured many abuses during his time in Iranian custody, including spending roughly 40 days in solitary confinement and being pressured to give a false confession. NIAC condemns the Iranian government in the strongest terms for these abuses and reiterates its call on Iranian authorities to comply with Iran’s international human rights obligations. Sadly, the Iranian judiciary has long victimized its own citizens with unfair trials and elements in the country have long taken dual nationals as hostages to use as bargaining chips and undermine their moderate rivals.

Zakka’s release is a positive step and is hopefully a prelude to the release of all other dual nationals unjustly held in Iran. To this end, we strongly encourage the Trump administration to test Iran’s alleged openness to negotiations that could secure the release of others who have been left behind. The Iranian government must once and for all end its detestable practice of imprisoning dual nationals and other political targets under trumped up charges and free all political prisoners held unjustly in the country.

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