Nizar Zakka in ‘bad health,’ family tells Hariri

Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese national currently detained in Iran, is in “very bad health,” members of his family said in a statement presented to Prime Minister Saad Hariri Monday.

The following article was published by The Daily Star on April 23, 2018. The original version can be read here


BEIRUT: Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese national currently detained in Iran, is in “very bad health,” members of his family said in a statement presented to Prime Minister Saad Hariri Monday. Hariri‘s meeting Monday with Maha Zaka and Talal Dunkir, mayor of Zakka‘s hometown Qalamoun, came a day after former Prime Minister Najib Mikati visited Qalamoun where he received a cool welcome Future Movement supporters.

In response to his hostile reception, Mikati told the crowd, “Let Saad Hariri release Nizar Zakka.”

A statement read by Zakka‘s sister, Maha, to Hariri read: “Nizar is in a very bad health situation, and he has been thrown in Evin Prison without committing any offense.”

“By not issuing a public condemnation for a Lebanese citizen official invited [to Iran] and taken hostage, it is as if Lebanon is a collaborator in the crime.”

Evin is one of Iran’s most notorious prisons.

The family called on Lebanese officials to release an official condemnation and to call for Zakka‘s release ahead of Lebanese parliamentary elections slated for May 6.

“Elections should not happen while a Lebanese citizen is oppressed and the government is watching,” the family‘s statement read.

“How can we trust a government that is acting as a facilitator for taking Lebanese hostages to oversee and manage a transparent election?”

It was not immediately clear from the family‘s letter what health problems Zakka has been suffering from, although his attorney previously told the U.S.-based NGO Center for Human Rights in Iran that he may have colon cancer.

Zakka was arrested after traveling to Iran to attend a state-sponsored conference in the capital, Tehran, in 2015.

At the time of his arrest, he was the secretary-general of IJMA3, an Arab communications organization, and had received an official invitation to visit Iran.

Dunkir, mayor of Qalamoun, reiterated the family‘s concerns during the meeting with Hariri.

“We know that Nizar suffers from difficult health conditions, so we are afraid that his health will deteriorate and he will return to us dead,” Dunkir said after the meeting, according to an official statement released by Hariri‘s media office.