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.”
“There are few more egregious violations of human rights and human dignity than to wrongfully imprison innocent people under harsh conditions for purposes of extortion, which the Government of Iran engages in as a matter of state policy and practice,” Sen. Leahy said. “Baquer Namazi, 80 years old and in failing health, is one of several Iranian-Americans being cruelly abused in this manner. It is imperative that the Administration uses its diplomatic tools to obtain their freedom.”
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
- UPDATE 18- Statement on the Continued Unlawful Detention of Nizar Zakka
- UPDATE 17- After Two Years, Zakka’s Health Continues to Deteriorate
- UPDATE 16- Nizar Zakka, Two Years Unlawfully Detained in Iran
- UPDATE 15a- Iran Renders Another Opinion in Zakka’s Case Affirming Prior Judgement
- UPDATE 14- After Learning of Son’s Testimony, Congressional Resolution, Zakka Breaks Hunger Strike After 33 Days
- UPDATE 13- Fourth Week of Hunger Strike Zakka Says “Liberty or Death…there is no turning back”
- UPDATE 12- As Nizar Starts Third Week of Hunger Strike, Family Pleas for Humanitarian Release
- UPDATE 11- Nizar on Fifth Hunger Strike, Now “Open Ended”
- UPDATE 10- Nizar Zakka Begins Fifth Hunger Strike, Iran Responds With Torture