US Resident Imprisoned in Iran Nizar Zakka Refused to Make False “Confession” on Film
Lebanese-born US resident Nizar Zakka refused to make false statements while being filmed in Evin Prison in Tehran where he has been imprisoned since 2017, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) has learned.
Zakka’s US-based lawyer Jason Poblete told CHRI that Zakka recently spent more than 40 days in a security wing in the prison where agents of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) tried to force him to provide a video confession, which he refused.
“Nizar’s captors will not break Nizar or force Nizar to admit to crimes Nizar did not commit,” Poblete told CHRI on February 6, 2019. “Nizar’s hunger strike is Nizar’s way of resisting and standing up for his belief in his work to help all the people of the Middle East lead better lives.”
Iran’s security establishment, particularly the IRGC, has a long history of working with state institutions and agencies to smear defendants facing politically motivated charges, including by broadcasting their forced “confessions” on state-run TV.
Zakka has started another hunger strike in in protest against his unjust incarceration on unfounded espionage charges, added Poblete.
“Nizar is protesting his unjust deprivation of liberty and because he refuses to make a confession for a crime he did not commit,” Poblete said. “Iran wants to ruin Nizar’s life’s work, that access to information will improve the lives of all people in the Middle East, including Iran.”
In September 2015, the Washington, DC-based information technology expert and internet freedom advocate travelled to Tehran on invite by then-Vice President for Women and Family Affairs Shahindokht Molaverdi to attend a conference.
Once inside the country, he was arrested by agents of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Intelligence Organization and sentenced to 10 years in prison as well as fined $4.2 million for unspecified espionage charges. An Appeals Court upheld the sentence in August 2017.
“This injustice has caused tremendous and unspeakable stress and suffering on Nizar and his family,” Poblete told CHRI. “There are humanitarian and other grounds for Nizar’s release and all the parties in interest — in the U.S. and the Middle East — need to work expeditiously once and for all to right this injustice.”
“There is no greater issue than the release of Americans, U.S. LPRs, and foreigners unjustly deprived of liberty,” he added.
Zakka previously went on a 33-day hunger strike that ended on July 28, 2017, to protest his sentence and mistreatment by Iran’s judicial authorities, according to Pobelete.
As a foreign national, Zakka has frequently been denied visits by Lebanese diplomatic staff and representatives of the International Red Cross in Tehran.
At least 11 dual and foreign nationals were known to be imprisoned in Iran as of January 2019.