News ID: 268593
Published: 1233 GMT May 04, 2020

Iranian scientist in US jail to return home if tested negative for virus: Spokesman

Iranian scientist in US jail to return home if tested negative for virus: Spokesman

An Iranian scientist, who is held at a US immigration jail, will be repatriated if he tests negative for the novel coronavirus, government spokesman Ali Rabiei said Monday.

Speaking at a weekly press conference, Rabiei said Iran is closely monitoring the situation surrounding Sirous Asgari through its interests section in Washington, D.C.

He urged the United States to “abandon immoral and inhumane behavior” in the case of Asgari who is in a prison in Louisiana. 

“All Iranian inmates in the US have been imprisoned on bogus charges, and we have obtained a report that they are being held in unsanitary condition,” Rabiei said.

Asgari, a professor of material sciences at Sharif University of Technology, has remained behind bars in the US despite having been exonerated in a sanctions trial.

He recently contracted the new coronavirus after he repeatedly drew attention to his fragile health and called for his release from the “dirty” and “overcrowded” jail facility, his lawyers told the Guardian.

Secretary of the Iranian Judiciary’s High Council for Human Rights on Friday said only the immediate release of Asgari can allay concerns about his health.

“We are worried about the health condition of all Iranians jailed in American prisons; however, the news of the infection of the Iranian thinker … has added to our concerns,” Ali Baqeri-Kani said.

“We are following up his release through relevant authorities, because concerns about his health can only be allayed if he is immediately released,” he noted.

Baqeri-Kani said the Iranian scientist’s underlying respiratory illness has made concerns about his health “even more serious.”

“Therefore, we ask the Iranian Foreign Ministry to expedite its efforts to have him released by using all its political, diplomatic, and legal capacities,” he added.

Asgari has repeatedly pleaded for his release since March, complaining about unsanitary detention conditions and overcrowding at the Louisiana facility, where he is being kept.

Coughing violently and suffering from a fever, Asgari told the Guardian in a phone call that the detention center was even taking in more inmates rather than releasing some as a precaution to stop further spread of the outbreak.

He also said the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had refused to notify him about his positive test results, adding that he only learned about his infection from his lawyers and family members last Tuesday.

“It makes sense to send me to the hospital as soon as possible. I don’t trust them at all,” the 59-year-old said. “If something happens, they are not fast responders … I prefer to leave this dirty place.”

Asgari was arrested in the United States in mid-2017. Back then, the FBI alleged the scientist had shared information about a project he had conducted on a sabbatical in the US five years before with his students.

His wife, though, said in an interview in late March that the findings of the project had been published and made available on the Internet afterward, which means there was nothing secret about the project. US legal authorities then charged him with withholding information in the process of visa application, circumventing the sanctions, and transferring technology to Iran.

Tasnim and Press TV contributed to this story.




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