Lebanon asked to join international coalition to free nationals held in Iran
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.” –