Lebanese-US citizen Nizar Zakka, who has been held in Iran for 3 years on spurious charges of spying, has lamented that the Lebanese state seems to be in “full coma” over his continued imprisonment in Iran. On celebrating his birthday in prison Mr Zakka thanked the Iranian political prisoners who are jailed with him “underground” for celebrating his birthday.
In a statement distributed by his family Zakka said,
“They prepared dishes, each according to the traditions of his region, as an apology gesture on behalf of those who abducted me and because inviting a person and then arresting him arbitrarily does not reflect the manners of the Iranians,” Zakka said, in a jab at Iranian authorities.
Zakka was born in Lebanon and educated in the US where he when he worked as an IT expert. He was kidnapped and taken hostage in Iran in September 2015. His arrest came as he travelled to Tehran on September 15, 2015, in what was his fifth trip to Iran. Zakka was invited by the Iranian government to the conference to participate in a conference on entrepreneurship in which President Hassan Rouhani spoke of providing more economic opportunities for women and sustainable development. Zakka then disappeared whilst on the way to the airport and was detained on spurious spying allegations and sentenced in 2016 to 10 years in prison and a US$4.2 million fine.
In the statement written by Nizar and issued by his family he also thanked Zakka the Lebanese Equestrian Federation, his son Omar and the Lebanese community in Washington for celebrating his birthday. Zakka’s statement went on to express his sorrow that the Lebanese state,
“is still in full coma, ignoring the case of a Lebanese citizen who was abducted in Tehran while being there on an official invitation.”
Mr Zakka was also a member of the worldwide association for IT professionals, The World Information Technology and Services Alliance (WITSA), a consortium of IT industry associations from 83 countries around the world. In September 2018 the WITSA called on the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, for Mr Zakka’s release.
The group wrote,
“WITSA kindly requests that you intervene personally with the Iranian leadership to obtain Nizar’s freedom, both as a humanitarian and moral issue,”
“We also encourage your administration to condemn the imprisonment of Mr. Zakka and other U.S. citizens and permanent residents in the strongest possible terms at the upcoming U.N. Security Council and General Assembly meetings.”
Zakka has faced ill health during his detention and has been denied visits by diplomatic staff. As a foreign national, Zakka has frequently demanded and been denied visits by Lebanese diplomatic staff and representatives of the International Red Cross in Tehran.