Le­banon asked to join in­ter­na­tional coali­tion to free na­tion­als held in Iran

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - LEBANON -

BEIRUT: Le­banon has been called on to join an in­ter­na­tional coali­tion of coun­tries whose cit­i­zens are be­ing held by Iran in order to help free the de­tainees, a lawyer for a Le­banese man im­pris­oned in Iran said Tues­day.

The Le­banese For­eign Min­istry was re­port­edly in­formed Tues­day by the Le­banese Em­bassy in Wash­ing­ton about U.S. Se­nate Res­o­lu­tion 245, which per­tains to the fate of Nizar Zakka, a Le­banese ci­ti­zen and U.S. per­ma­nent res­i­dent who has been held in Iran since 2015.

Zakka’s lawyer An­toine Abou Dib said that the res­o­lu­tion, dated Oct. 31, 2017, in­cluded a re­quest to the Le­banese gov­ern­ment to join an in­ter­na­tional coali­tion of coun­tries to free their cit­i­zens.

“The res­o­lu­tion ex­plic­itly pro­vides for the re­lease of the hostage Nizar Zakka,” Abou Dib’s state­ment said, adding that it “pro­vides for the es­tab­lish­ment of an in­ter­na­tional task force to work to­gether in order to se­cure the re­lease of Zakka and other hostages kid­napped by Iran, and in­vites the Le­banese state to join [the task force].”

The For­eign Min­istry had re­port­edly passed on the in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing the res­o­lu­tion to the Jus­tice Min­istry, to in­form con­cerned par­ties via their le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the res­o­lu­tion’s con­tents. Re­quests for com­ment from the min­istry re­gard­ing their re­sponse to the re­quest were not an­swered.

“The res­o­lu­tion in­cludes a ref­er­ence to the pros­e­cu­tion and im­po­si­tion of se­vere penal­ties against any­one who is in­volved in the kid­nap­ping of Zakka, and against those who have vi­o­lated his hu­man rights,” the lawyer’s state­ment added.

Abou Dib also noted that the res­o­lu­tion re­quired U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump to con­sider this is­sue a pri­or­ity for his ad­min­is­tra­tion, to keep the U.S. Se­nate in­formed of the pro­ceed­ings, and, if nec­es­sary, to im­pose ad­di­tional sanc­tions.

Zakka was ar­rested af­ter trav­el­ing to Iran to at­tend a state-spon­sored con­fer­ence in Tehran, in 2015. At the time of his ar­rest, he was the sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the Arab ICT Or­ga­ni­za­tion, IJMA3. Re­ports from Ira­nian me­dia sug­gested his ar­rest was linked to es­pi­onage. He was sen­tenced to a decade be­hind bars fol­low­ing a closed-door trial in Septem­ber 2016 and faces a $4.2 mil­lion fine.

Abou Dib’s state­ment notes, “Zakka is con­fi­dent that Pres­i­dent [Michel Aoun] will take all nec­es­sary steps in order to free him, and he thanks the Amer­i­can peo­ple for their sup­port through the U.S. Se­nate and Congress.”

It goes on to say that Prime Min­is­ter Saad Hariri – who an­nounced his res­ig­na­tion from the post on Nov. 4 – “was, and still is, a sup­porter of [Zakka’s] just cause, while the Le­banese state has com­pletely ig­nored his kid­nap­ping and has not yet made any of­fi­cial pub­lic state­ment.” –

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