Coronavirus-positive scientist to return home from U.S. jail: Tehran

Sirous Asgari, an Iranian scientist imprisoned in the United States who has contracted the novel coronavirus, will return home soon, according to Iran’s Foreign Ministry.

During a press conference on Monday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said the ministry is following up on Asgari’s case both in Iran and in the U.S.

Asgari, who has been pleading for weeks to be released from a U.S. immigration jail due to health problems, is in an isolation cell inside an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) jail in Louisiana.

His lawyers learned last week that his COVID-19 test was positive, and in a phone call with The Guardian, Asgari had a bad cough and said he had had a fever for days.

“He is expected to be tested again for coronavirus today and tomorrow, and God willing, if his test becomes negative, all necessary measures have been carried out for his return to the country,” Mousavi said.

Asgari and his family have been calling for his transfer to a medical facility where he can receive proper care.

“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 last week amid repeated coughing fits. “If something happens, they are not fast responders … I prefer to leave this dirty place.”

Asgari’s story sparked international outrage after he spoke about his fears of COVID-19 spreading inside crowded ICE facilities with substandard cleaning practices and a lack of supplies.

The professor, who has a history of respiratory problems, was exonerated in a U.S. sanctions trial last year, but ICE has refused to release him or allow him to return to Iran.

‘The condition in which Iranian prisoners are held in U.S. is shameful’

Government spokesman Ali Rabiei also criticized the U.S. for its violation of human rights with regard to Iranian prisoners.

“One of these individuals has contracted the coronavirus and if that individual’s test becomes negative, he will definitely return to Iran,” Rabiei said during a press conference on Monday.

He said Iran is pursuing the case of other Iranian citizens jailed in the U.S.

“We hope the U.S. understands Iranians’ concerns about their prisoners,” the spokesman added.

Rabiei described the condition in which Iranian prisoners are held in U.S. jails as “shameful”, expressing the hope that the U.S. releases them unconditionally.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif recently called for Asgari’s release, as have some U.S. lawmakers and human rights groups.

On Sunday, a member of the parliament urged the U.S. to release Asgari.

“Iranian scientist Mr. Sirous Asgari has contracted the coronavirus in U.S. jails,” Alireza Salimi said during an open session of the parliament.

“The Americans do not observe ethical issues,” Salimi said, adding, “We released American prisoners but they did not comply with this matter.”

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