New Reports of Cruelty Suffered by U.S. Hostages in Iran
One of the American hostages being held by the regime in Tehran reportedly may be suffering from cancer yet is being denied the healthcare he needs.
Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese-American and permanent U.S. resident, is secretary-general of the Dupont Circle-based IJMA3 group, which lobbies for the information and communications technology industry in the Middle East. Zakka earned degrees from the University of Texas after graduating from the Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville, Ga., in 1985. He used to work as a software engineer at contractor Kellogg, Brown & Root in the early '90s.
Zakka visited Tehran at the invitation of the Iranian government to speak at a conference on women's entrepreneurship and employment, and was seized as he tried to catch a return flight in September 2015. The State Department even helped fund his trip, according to his colleagues.
He was sentenced to 10 years on espionage charges a year after his arrest, and has undertaken lengthy hunger strikes in protest of his detention. In August, Zakka was notified that his appeal was denied.
Last July, Zakka's 19-year-old son Omar told the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa that his dad was on the 30th day of his latest protest hunger strike.
"While my dad is of a strong and sound mind, he is fighting for his liberty, indeed, his life. This week marks five weeks of hunger strike. His body may be weak, but his will, as I said, as strong as ever. My dad is innocent and, as he says, will not be forced to do things against his will, including signing forced confessions," Omar Zakka told lawmakers.
Nizar Zakka, said his son, "would rather die for his cause than live with injustice and what they are doing to him."
Zakka's U.S.-based attorney, Jason Poblete, told the Center for Human Rights in Iran this week that "a few weeks ago, Nizar was diagnosed by an Iranian doctor hired by the family with colon cancer."
“He needs a colonoscopy to confirm the diagnosis, but the Iranian government will not allow it," Poblete added.
It is also believed that officials at Tehran's notorious Evin prison may be drugging the food of U.S. hostages to make them sleep for days on end. Zakka is sharing a cell with U.S. citizen and Princeton University student Xiyue Wang, a fourth-year doctoral candidate in late 19th and early 20th century Eurasian history, who was arrested in August 2016 and later sentenced to 10 years in prison after Iran said he was scanning large quantities of documents and sending digital scans to the State Department, Princeton and Harvard. Wang got his bachelor's degree at the University of Washington and studied at Harvard before Princeton. He and his wife, Qu Hua, have a young son.