US Permanent Resident & State Department Contractor Nizar Zakka Receives Lengthy Sentence and Fine; Friends of Nizar Zakka Call on Sec Kerry to Take Action on His Behalf

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Friends of imprisoned US State Department contractor Nizar Zakka call for Secretary Kerry to Take Action on his behalf

On September 19th, Nizar Zakka, an information and communication (ICT) technology consultant, was sentenced to 10 years in prison and a $4.2 million fine in a secret Iranian tribunal.1 Zakka has led a regional alliance of information and communication technology (ICT) organizations across the Middle East and North Africa for development projects funded by organizations from corporations like Cisco and Microsoft, to the US State Department. Zakka’s fateful trip to Iran was funded by the U. S. Department of State to promote ICT for women resulting in his imprisonment.

“Nizar’s fate is now clear: to spend a decade suffering in an Iranian jail for a crime he didn’t commit,” said David Ramadan. “As Nizar served as contractor for the State Department promoting American values; our government has a responsibility to see him freed and brought back to the United States. We call on Secretary Kerry to intervene personally with the Iranian leadership to obtain Nizar’s freedom, both as a humanitarian and a moral issue.”

Zakka, a Department of State contractor, has been a permanent resident of the U.S. since 2013 and resides in Washington, DC. He is one of the founding members of The Arab ICT Organization – IJMA3. Today, the member organizations represent 18 ICT organizations, across 14 countries. In addition to being an advocate for the ICT industry, IJMA3 works on projects in the field of ICT for Development (ICT4D), which aim to promote income generating opportunities and improved livelihoods for people across the MENA region, particularly youth.

Zakka travelled to Tehran on September 11, 2015 under invitation from the Iranian government to participate in a conference on entrepreneurship and employment at the Second International Conference & Exhibition on Women in Sustainable Development in Tehran. On September 18th, Nizar was scheduled to travel to Beirut, but never arrived. Unofficial reports indicated that he checked out of his hotel but was arrested while he was on his way to the airport. On November 3rd, 2015 the Associated Press reported that the Iranian state-sponsored television station aired a piece indicating that Nizar Zakka had been arrested, with false accusations of him being an American spy.2

Ramadan has led an ad-hoc effort of friends and colleagues to obtain Zakka’s release, organizing a website and meeting with Members of Congress to raise attention and interest in his predicament.

Ramadan calls on friends and supporters to visit the website to support this effort and obtain Zakka’s return.

Ramadan is available to discuss the background of Zakka’s case and to update reporters on specific efforts on his behalf.

Reference notes:
1. Iran Sentences US resident to 10 years in jail after spying claims. The Guardian, 9/20/16.

2. Lebanese man held in Iran had past US contracts. AP, May 18, 2016.

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David Ramadan

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