MP urges U.S. to free coronavirus positive Iranian scientist

May 3, 2020 - 19:59

TEHRAN — A member of the parliament has urged the United States to release Sirous Asgari, an Iranian scientist imprisoned in the United States who has contracted the novel coronavirus.

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

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

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 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 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. 

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

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

While ICE informed the attorneys that his test was positive, 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,” he said, noting that the medical staff checked on him twice or three times a day.


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