Iranian scientist contracts coronavirus in U.S. jail

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Publish Date : 05/04/2020 13:58
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Iranian professor Dr. Sirous Asgari, unjustly arrested by the FBI, has now come down with COVID-19 in ICE custody and is at risk of dying. Dr. Asgari is 59 years old and has a history of respiratory problems. He is a man who has never committed any crime and has, for years, been asking simply to return to his home in Iran.

Sirous Asgari (born 1960) is an Iranian materials scientist and academician known for his research in lithium ion batteries, phase transformation and diffusion in solid materials. He is currently a full professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Sharif University of Technology, Iran. He received his Ph.D. in materials Science and Engineering (1997) at Drexel University.

He was indicted in 2016 on charges of theft of trade secrets, wire fraud and visa fraud. Prosecutors said the professor violated U.S. sanctions law as it pertains to Iran. Asgari denied the charges. Finally in November 2019, he was exonerated of charges. Although the US government lost its case charges, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has kept him indefinitely detained since the trial.

Talking to Guardian, he expressed an imminent fear for his life due to the spread of COVID-19 virus and no precautionary measures at ICE detention facility in Louisiana. In March 2020 ProPublica reported that in a 10-Day span, ICE flew Asgari across the country nine times.

At Winn, he and other detainees told last month that many of them were trying to get deported because they were so fearful of Covid-19 exposure inside. Several men said the detainees were responsible for all cleaning, and there was a single shower and only two toilets for all 44 of them to share. They are also sleeping on beds spaced roughly 2ft apart.

On 28 April 2020, Guardian reported that Prof. Asgari eventually contracted COVID-19 after pleading for release. 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.

The specifics of Asgari’s case have been particularly shocking to immigration attorneys. Asgari, a father of three, has deep ties to the US, including two children living in America. “This mass [detention] under this outbreak of a nasty virus is absolutely wrong,” Asgari said after learning of his test results. “What more proof do they need?”

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. Iran’s foreign minister called for his release, as have some US lawmakers and human rights groups.

“ICE must immediately release him to a medical facility where he can receive proper for the coronavirus care and then he must be allowed to return home to Iran.” Urged Code Pink. “There is an emergency lawsuit underway for Dr. Asgari and 16 other people who are severely at risk from COVID-19 because of medical vulnerabilities, but we are not waiting.”

Iran's High Council for Human rights Ali Baqeri Kani said, "We are concerned about the health of all Iranian prisoners in US prisons. The infection of this Iranian Scientist to COVID-19 has added to the concerns, so we are pursuing his release from the relevant authorities because only Dr. Asgari's release can end the concerns about the health of this university professor.”

Rights groups have been calling for his release since he was detained, including the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), who penned a letter on 10 April calling on the centre to release him on the basis that his detention has "placed his health at serious risk". “In addition to litigation underway on his behalf – as part of a group of medically vulnerable individuals – we also urge the community and Congressional representatives to advocate for his prompt release.” “ICE has failed to follow urgent public health guidelines as, among other things, (1) there appear to be no social distancing guidelines or practices in the overcrowded facilities; (2) the detention facilities are not cleaned regularly, including the bathrooms and sleeping areas; and (3) detainees struggle to stay clean and without access to laundry for extended periods of time.” Letter continued.

Due to his life-threatening vulnerability, it is imperative that Dr. Asgari is released and transferred to a medical facility to receive proper treatment for COVID-19 and then ultimately released to his family so he can fully recover thus there is also a petition which is created by Dr Asgari’s daughter to help him.




“ Iranian scientist contracts coronavirus in U.S. jail ”