TEHRAN: Iran's supreme leader pardoned hundreds of prisoners on the occasion of the end of Ramadan, but a Lebanese national who Beirut expected to be released was not among them, authorities said yesterday. In total, the sentences of 691 prisoners were either commuted or deferred as decided by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as a gesture for the Eid al-Fitr holidays, said the jucidiary's Mizan Online news website. Last week, Lebanon said one of its nationals condemned in 2016 to 10 years' jail in Iran after being found guilty of spying for the United States would be on the pardon list.

The Lebanese foreign ministry, quoted by the country's official NNA news agency, said Nizar Zakka would be pardoned at the request of Beirut as a gesture for Eid. But Zakka's name was not on the list, said Iran's judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili. "The individual was sentenced and the president of Lebanon had - in letters to judicial officials - requested a conditional pardon," he said, quoted by Mizan. "This request has been in the judicial process and, in case any decision is taken by the judicial apparatus, information will be provided."

A resident of the United States in his 50s, Zakka was arrested in Sept 2015 during a visit to Iran, where he was convicted the following July. At the time of his arrest, state television in Iran charged Zakka had "deep ties to military and intelligence services of the United States", Iran's arch-foe. It broadcast photographs of a man in military uniform it said was of Zakka at an American base.

At the end of 2017, Iranian courts confirmed his 10-year sentence on appeal, as well as that of an American and two Iranian-Americans accused of "collaboration" with the United States. Iran and the United States broke diplomatic ties in 1980, and their relations have deteriorated significantly since US President Donald Trump took office in Jan 2017. - AFP