Iranian scientist in US jail to return home if tested negative for COVID-19: Spokesman

Tasnim – Iranian scientist Sirous Asgari who is behind bars at a US immigration jail will be repatriated as soon as he tests negative for the novel coronavirus, spokesperson for the Iranian administration said.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Ali Rabiee said Tehran is closely monitoring the situation surrounding the imprisoned Iranian scientist through its interests section in Washington, DC.

“… the United States must abandon immoral and inhumane behavior in this case,” Rabiee said.

He also noted that Dr. Asgari will be released from the US prison and return home if he tests negative for COVID-19.

“All Iranian inmates in the US have been imprisoned on bogus charges, and we have obtained a report that they are being held without medical care” the spokesman deplored.

Dr. Sirous Asgari, a materials science and engineering professor who spoke out in March about the unsanitary and “inhumane” conditions in detention, was placed in an isolation cell this week inside an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) jail in Louisiana.

His lawyers learned on Tuesday 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 and his family are calling for his release 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 on Tuesday 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 US sanctions trial last year, but Ice has refused to release him or allow him to return to Iran. Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif recently called for his release, as have some US lawmakers and human rights groups.

Asgari is confined to a small room at the Winn correctional center in a Louisiana, a state hard hit by the coronavirus.

Ice informed the attorneys that Asgari’s test was positive on Tuesday, but Asgari said Ice had not yet told him the results and that he had learned of them on a call with his family and lawyers. “The nurse … always says the test results are not in,” Asgari said, noting that the medical staff checked on him twice or three times a day.

Ice told Asgari’s lawyers he would only be released to a hospital if he was struggling to breathe, the attorneys said.