Officials of the Foreign Ministry in Beirut were quoted as saying on June 4 that Iran had agreed to grant amnesty to Lebanese citizen Zakka, an information technology expert, it detained in 2015 for "collaborating against the state", according to Reuters.
Nizar Zakka, 52, who had been living in Washington, DC, was detained in Tehran in September 2015 after being invited by the Iranian government to attend a conference.
In the statement published on Iran's Mizan News Agency on Tuesday, Iran judiciary spokesperson Gholam Hussein Esmaeili said Zakka's release was in line with Iran's Constitution, which allows for the conditional release of prisoners sentenced up to 10 years, if they had served at least a third of the sentence and shown good behaviour. There has been speculation that his release is part of a wider deal between the US and Iran.
The White House says it is "thankful" for the release of a US permanent resident from Iranian custody, but wants to see other Americans who are detained there released as well.
Although Iran has recently portrayed Zakka's case as a matter between Iran and Lebanon, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in 2016 said it was a problem mainly between Tehran and Washington.More news: Turkish F-35 pilots no longer flying at USA base
Sarah Fallah, a Lebanese lawyer who represented Zakka, told HRW in March 2016 that Iranian authorities refused to let her visit her client.
Ibrahim said that, while Hezbollah had played a role in the release, "the base was the request from (President) Aoun".
She says "The big question is there's several others and we want to see those people released as well".
Lebanon's head of general security Abbas Ibrahim told Reuters on Monday that the detainee, who has United States residency, would be freed by Iran and that the two would return to Lebanon.
An Iranian judiciary spokesman says Iran has agreed to hand over a USA permanent resident imprisoned for years to Lebanese officials.More news: Mitchell Marsh Called Up As Cover For Injured Marcus Stoinis
Zakka was held at Tehran's Evin prison, a facility established in 1972.
The comment on Tuesday from Gholamhossein Esmaili is the first official confirmation that Nizar Zakka would be sent back to Lebanon, years after his internationally criticized spying conviction.
But Iranian newspaper Sobh-e No asserted that his release was secured only following the intervention of Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Iran-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
Over the past four years, Zakka's family members have repeatedly called on the Lebanese government to negotiate for his release.More news: Vatican: Transgender Identity Destabilizes The Family