Is Iran Raising The Stakes For Releasing American Hostages?

From The Washington Examiner

August 4, 2016

A Lebanese citizen and permanent US resident, Nizar Zakka has lived in Washington, D.C. for many years. He was arrested in Iran last September while on travel to attend an International Conference and Exhibition on Women in Sustainable Development. Zakka was invited to serve as an event speaker by an Iranian official. During that visit he was arrested in Iran and has been detained in long-term solitary confinement since last September under nonspecific charges.

Jason Poblete, attorney for Zakka, says that his health is deteriorating, especially during the past months, and that he is on a hunger strike to protest his harsh treatment.

“The family is concerned about his well-being and they are asking the US government and anybody who can to please help secure his release,” Poblete told the Washington Examiner.

Zakka was working on a US government grant when he traveled to Iran. Amnesty International reported that Zakka had helped to set up a “regional alliance of information and technology organizations” across over a dozen companies in the Middle East and North Africa region. 

The latest reports that the US had sent Iran $400 million cash payment at the same time that American prisoners were sent home has many, including Poblete, worried that it was essentially a ransom, and that Iran may seek additional concessions before Zakka is released. 

“We hope that our government is not salvaging the [nuclear deal] on the backs and lives of these innocent people, including Mr. Zakka,” Poblete said. 

According to the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual, however, the US government has wide discretion in advocating for legal permanent residents. “At times, you will come across arrest cases of individuals who are not US citizens or nationals but who are legal permanent residents with strong ties to the United States,” the manual states. 

“Their arrest may come to your attention from other family members in the United States, other prisoners, congressional offices, or even host government officials who on occasion are not quite clear on the exact status of a US ‘green card’ holder.”

“The department’s general guidance in such cases is: While consular officers do not have the right to demand consular access and visitation for US Lawful Permanent Resident Aliens (LPRs), they may do so on a courtesy basis.”

The complete article in the Washington Examiner can be found here.

Leave a Reply