A U.S. permanent resident has been sentenced to a $4.2 million fine and 10 years in an Iranian prison. Nizar Zakka was detained for over a year in Iran before the sentence was handed down in a 60-page document from a Revolutionary Court in Teharan. Iranian officials detained Zakka last year on allegations that he was spying on the Iranian government. Supporters of Zakka claim that the imprisonment is merely a move to distance any individuals with foreign ties from Iran’s nuclear program.
Iranian state television first broke news of Zakka’s detainment on November 3, 2015 claiming he was a spy with “deep links.” It is unclear what caused Iranian authorities to detain Zakka and convict him of the crime other than general allegations of “spying.” The government has not released the 60-page document to Zakka’s supporters. Amnesty International has reported that Zakka received limited legal assistance during his court proceedings and only had two court hearings before the ten year sentence was handed down.
Prior to the detainment Zakka lived in Washington and was a leader in the Arab ICT Organization (IJMA3) and advocated for information technology in the region. He disappeared on his fifth trip to Iran after attending a conference held by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
Former Virginia state legislator and co-founder of a group called “Friends of Nizar Zakka David Ramadan” claims that Zakka was denied a fair trial. He told reporters:
“There’s no regard for any international order, any international agreement or any international state of relations that they care about,”
Zakka’s supporters have written Secretary of State John Kerry stating that Zakka travelled to Iran “with the knowledge and approval of the U.S. State Department, and his trip was funded by grants” and that, because of this, the State Department should be doing more to free Zakka. The State Department has responded by saying it was “troubled” by Zakka’s sentence and have demanded his immediate release.