Iran holds a number of dual nationals, including Iranian Americans, as well as Chinese-born US citizen and Princeton scholar, Xiyue Wang. He flew out of Tehran with Lebanon's security chief Abbas Ibrahim on Tuesday. The development comes at a time of increased tension between the USA and Tehran, though NBC News notes that it's unclear whether this might lead to the release of Americans and other foreigners held by Iran.
Nizar Zakka, the Lebanese IT professional detained in Iran, landed in Beirut on Tuesday, bringing an end to a near four-year ordeal. Subsequently, an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp-affiliated news agency said they would hand Mr Zakka over to Hezbollah officials, only for the judiciary to say he would be handed to Maj Gen Ibrahim.
"Zakka was released following President Aoun's letter to (Iranian) President Hassan Rouhani", Ibrahim said.
He was held in Evin Prison, notorious for holding political prisoners, dual-nationals and academics. He had just attended a conference there on the invitation of one of the country's vice presidents.
"In this regard, no negotiations have taken place at any level with any person or any government", state TV said. The conditions of Zakka's release were not specified. "Also, the Lebanese Hizbullah group considered the approval of his freedom as prudent".
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He was arrested on the way to the airport and later sentenced to 10 years behind bars on espionage charges in a closed-door trial. Authorities accused him of being an American spy, allegations vigorously rejected by his family and associates.
Nizar Zakka, 52, is a permanent USA resident who was accused of spying on Iran for the United States when he attended a conference in 2015.
Zakka's release comes amid heightened tensions between Iran and the USA after America's withdrawal from Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers.
The State Department has yet to respond to a years-old request from the AP for information about those grants.
In April, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told Reuters he was proposing "serious dialogue" with Washington on a possible prisoner swap without saying if it would include Zakka. "We did all we could to stop this from happening, but we are seeing that we have failed to make a significant impact".