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US Congress Describes as ‘Hostage’ Lebanese National Held in Tehran

US Congress Describes as ‘Hostage’ Lebanese National Held in Tehran

Saturday, 13 January, 2018 - 07:15
Ziad Zakka, brother of Nizar Zakka who is imprisoned in Iran, shows a photo of his brother on his mobile phone in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, July 18, 2017. (AP)

The family of a detained Lebanese national in Iran questioned on Friday the state’s inaction over his case as time when the US Congress labeled him as a “hostage”.

The family remarked that the Congress had issued twice in one month a unanimous decision to condemn the imprisonment and demand the release of Nizar Zakka.

The Congress had also imposed strict sanctions against anyone found to have abetted and facilitated Zakka’s abduction. The sanctions target some of the most senior Iranian officials, said the family.

The American resolution also demands that the Secretary of State inform Congress of the practical steps that should be and will be taken to halt the human rights violations in Iran and release Zakka and other detainees.

Zakka’s family noted that these were the strictest sanctions to date and most importantly, they include the perpetrators, their families and partners.

In September 2015, Zakka, secretary general of IJMA3, the Arab Information and Communications Technology Organization, visited in Tehran upon an invitation from Iranian then-Vice President for women and family affairs Shahindokht Molaverdi, to speak at the second international conference on the role of women in sustainable development.

He was kidnapped as he was heading to Tehran Airport at the end of the conference, and later news emerged about his imprisonment by the Iranian authorities.

In the autumn of 2016, an Iranian Revolutionary Court sentenced him to 10 years in prison with a $4.2 million fine on charges of cooperating against the state before his lawyer appealed the sentence.

Zakka’s legal representative Majed Dimashkia expressed his family’s disappointment in the Lebanese government’s handling of his case, saying that its efforts have not resolved the issue.

He told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The family had demanded the formation of a ministerial committee to follow up on the case by heading to Iran or seriously contacting Iranian authorities, but we received no answer to this request.”

The family wondered if this silence was as a sign of “incompetence or complicity.”

Three months ago, Zakka had informed Prime Minister Saad Hariri in a telephone call of the conditions of his imprisonment, detailing his constant psychological torture.

The premier had pledged to exert efforts through official channels to tackle his case.

The detainee’s family hailed Hariri’s follow up of the case, saying that they had received vows from him that he will continue with his efforts.

Earlier this week, Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil said: “We are doing all we can to release him.”

He revealed that the government and his ministry had employed all of their efforts to this end and they are following up on them to ensure that Zakka is released.

He said that he had personally contacted his Iranian counterpart Mohammed Javad Zarif, his deputy and Tehran ambassador in Beirut on more than one occasion to address this issue. The Lebanese embassy in Iran is constantly following up on the matter.

Zakka’s family remarked however that Lebanese efforts are still behind those of the US, seeing as the Congress has already issued a resolution on the matter.

“The efforts of Lebanese officials on the other hand have not yielded any results,” they lamented according to Dimashkia.

In a statement issued on Friday, the detainee’s family questioned the state and parliament’s stance, wondering whether it stemmed from “negligence or ignorance of their duties.”

“Why don’t respectable Lebanese media frankly address this negligence? Officials are ignoring the fate of an abducted Lebanese citizen, whose human rights are being violated on a daily basis, while they are touring the globe in search for voters,” it added.

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