Statement on the Continued Unlawful Detention of Internet Freedom Advocate & Hostage Nizar Zakka
The Senate today approved S.Res. 245, a bipartisan resolution calling on the Government of Iran to release unjustly detained United States citizens and legal permanent resident aliens, and for other purposes.
On behalf of Mr. Nizar Zakka and his family, Mr. Zakka’s lawyer in the United States, Mr. Jason Poblete, issued the following statement:
“For the first time in years, the U.S. government sent a united and clear message to the Iranian regime that it will no longer tolerate using innocent people such as Nizar Zakka as political leverage. It’s time for responsible parties around the world to step up, follow America’s lead, and strongly urge Iran to release Nizar who remains very sick and who is being refused medical care.”
Last month, President Donald Trump announced a new approach for U.S. Iran policy highlighting, among other things, the unlawful detention of American citizens and U.S. Legal Permanent Residents such as Nizar Zakka. The administration has warned Iran of ‘dire consequences’ if they refuse to release unlawfully detained persons.
On July 26, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a resolution sponsored by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) calling for the unconditional release of United States citizens and legal permanent resident aliens being held for political purposes by the Government of Iran. A similar resolution was approved in the Senate today, sponsored by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT).
Senators Cruz and Leahy issued the following statement on the passage of their bipartisan resolution:
“For years the Iranian regime has brutally detained and imprisoned Americans and dual-nationals as a matter of policy, in an effort to leverage the freedom of our citizens for political concessions,” Sen. Cruz said. “We have a moral imperative to speak for the silenced and shackled, to hold those responsible in Iran to account for detaining and mistreating our people, and to fight for the release and return of those held hostage by the Islamic Republic of Iran. I am glad that today the Senate has voted in support of this vital measure. I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure the United States safely brings our people back to American soil.”
Mr. Zakka traveled to Iran in September 2015, at the invitation of Iran’s Vice President for Women and Family Affairs Shahindokht Molaverdi, to speak at a conference on the use of technology and the Internet to promote social, economic, and educational development in the region. After the conference, en route to the airport, Mr. Zakka was taken by persons believed to be associated with the IRGC’s Basij or the intelligence services.
Mr. Zakka has been denied the right to review the charges or evidence against him and his lawyers have not been allowed to mount a proper defense. Despite the ordeal, including psychological and physical torture, Nizar has maintained his innocence.
More information about Mr. Zakka’s case can be found below.
Prior Statements and Releases