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Iran to free Lebanese man jailed for US spying

Nizar Zakka, a US resident, to be released after 2015 arrest for alleged ‘deep ties’ to American military and intelligence

Ziad Zakka, brother of Nizar Zakka who is imprisoned in Iran, shows a photo of his brother on his cellular telephone in Beirut, Lebanon, July 18, 2017. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
Ziad Zakka, brother of Nizar Zakka, shows a photo of his brother on his phone in Beirut, Lebanon, July 18, 2017. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Iran is to free a Lebanese national held since 2015 and sentenced to 10 years in jail on charges of spying for Washington, the foreign ministry in Beirut said Tuesday.

Nizar Zakka, a resident of the United States in his 50s, was arrested in September 2015 during a visit to Iran, where he was convicted the following July.

The foreign ministry, quoted by Lebanon’s official news agency NNA, said Zakka was pardoned at the request of Beirut as a gesture for this week’s Eid holidays marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

At the time of his arrest, state television in Iran charged Zakka had “deep ties to military and intelligence services of the United States,” Iran’s arch-foe.

It broadcast photographs of a man in military uniform it said was of Zakka at an American base.

The report on his imminent release following almost four years of detention comes at a time of heightened US-Iranian tensions.

Washington last month deployed an aircraft carrier task force, B-52 bombers and an amphibious assault ship to the Gulf, along with additional troops over an alleged Iranian plan to attack US assets.

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