An Iranian scientist — who remains behind bars in the US despite having been exonerated in a sanctions trial — has 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.
The Guardian reported the lawyers representing Sirous Asgari, a professor of material sciences at Sharif University of Technology, had confirmed his infection on Tuesday.
The Iranian scientist has repeatedly pleaded for 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 paper 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 on 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.”
The detainees are responsible for all the cleaning at the detention facility,” where there is a single shower and only two toilets for all 44 of them to share,” the daily reported.
Ice, however, has told Asgari’s lawyers he would only be released to a hospital if he was struggling to breathe.
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 afterwards, 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.
Washington then delayed the holding of a trial for him several times, “all the while knowing they had no evidence to bring against him,” she said.
The Iranian scientist was cleared of the charges at a court session that was ultimately scheduled after about two and a half years. Nevertheless, US Citizenship and Immigration Services then took the matters out of the hands of the country’s legal system, once again detaining Asgari for “lacking a valid visa and illegal presence on US soil.”
Mr. Asgari has reminded US officials that they themselves had seized his passport and were, hence, responsible for his prolonged presence in America.
His spouse said Washington was intentionally prolonging Asgari’s detention so that it could eventually swap him with an American prisoner held in Iran.