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Former Rouhani Aide Blasts Iran Hardliners Over American Resident's Case

File photo - Iranian Vice President Shahindokht Molaverdi, unadted.
File photo - Iranian Vice President Shahindokht Molaverdi, unadted.

Former Deputy President of Iran Shahindokht Molaverdi has criticized the intelligence and judiciary authorities over the imprisonment of a U.S. permanent resident who was set free on June 11 after almost four years behinds bars.

Lebanese citizen and U.S. permanent resident Nizar Zakka had attended a 2015 conference in Tehran on the invitation of Molaverdi, who was deputy president of women’s and family affairs (2013-2017), when he was arrested for espionage.

In an interview with the Associated Press last year, Molaverdi said her government had "failed" to help Zakka and acknowledged Iran's civilian leaders had limited power to influence the omnipotent security forces and hard-line judiciary. Three days after Zakka's release, Molaverdi wrote on her Instagram page, "Heavy cases related to espionage are s

helved with a happy ending, one after another. Now, only we are left with a multitude of libelous accusations."

After Zakka's detention, the conservatives had bombarded Molaverdi with harsh criticism, accusing her of having a dubious relationship with the "captured spy." Zakka, at the time of his arrest, was secretary-general of the Arab-ICT Organization, or IJMA3, a nonprofit group promoting access to information technology in the region.

Reacting to Zakka's sudden release, Molaverdi wrote on her Instagram page that they arrested him in September 2015 when he was on his way to the airport. "Immediately after his detention, they (the judiciary and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps intelligence agents) hacked my email and all social media platforms I was using," she wrote.

The former deputy president, who was demoted to the position of presidential aide after Zakka's detention, has derided conservative news outlets and monopolized state-run TV for describing Zakka as America's "ace in the hole," its "asset," and the "bridgehead to infiltrate the Islamic Republic's executive and political infrastructure" by allegedly controlling its cyberspace.

"If you were already aware of the existence of such an asset, why did you not immediately arrest him on his arrival? Why did you wait for a whole week to detain such [a] precious piece?" Molaverdi asked. Zakka, 52, who was sentenced to 10 years for collaboration with a hostile government and fined $4.2 million, was set free on June 10 after a request made by the president of Lebanon and Tehran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah.

A day after his release, Zakka told the Associated Press that he was subjected to "all kinds of torture," both physical and mental, during his nearly four-year detention at the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran. "Nobody on earth deserves such suffering," he said in the 30-minute interview during which he broke down in tears.