An Iranian semi-official news agency is quoting a Revolutionary Guard commander alleging that a U.S. permanent resident sentenced to 10 years in prison in Iran confessed he tried to “encourage corruption” in the Iranian society.
Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese with resident status in the United States, disappeared in September 2015 during a trip to Iran to attend a conference.
It wasn’t possible to independently confirm the alleged confession. Zakka’s supporters deny accusations he is a spy and note he was invited to Tehran by the government.
The Mehr news agency Wednesday quoted Gen. Sayyari of the Guard’s intelligence service, as saying that Zakka tried to corrupt “Iranian women and families.” The general was not identified by his first name.
Zakka was sentenced to 10 years and a $4.2 million fine.
“There’s no regard for any international order, any international agreement or any international state of relations that they care about,” said David Ramadan (last September after Zakka’s sentence) , a former Virginia state legislator who co-founded a group called Friends of Nizar Zakka.
Amnesty International has said Zakka had only two court hearings before the ruling and received only limited legal assistance. The closed-door tribunal handles cases involving alleged attempts to overthrow the government.
Zakka, who lives in Beirut and Washington , leads the Arab ICT Organization, or IJMA3, an industry consortium from 13 countries that advocates for information technology in the region. Zakka disappeared Sept. 18, 2015, during his fifth trip to Iran. He had been invited by the government to attend a conference at which President Hassan Rouhani spoke of providing more economic opportunities for women and sustainable development.
On Nov. 3, 2015 Iranian state television aired a report saying he was in custody and calling him a spy with “deep links” with U.S. intelligence services. It also showed what it described as a damning photo of Zakka and three other men in army-style uniforms, two with flags and two with rifles on their shoulders. But that turned out to be from a homecoming event at Zakka’s prep school, the Riverside Military Academy in Georgia, according to the school’s president.
In a statement, the State Department said last September that it was “troubled” by Zakka’s reported sentence and demanded his immediate release.
“We reaffirm our calls on Iran to respect and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, cease any arbitrary or politically motivated detentions and ensure fair and transparent judicial proceedings in all criminal prosecutions,” the statement said.
AP with YL
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