Sirous Asgari held in U.S. will return to Iran soon

May 11, 2020 - 19:29

TEHRAN - Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif announced on Monday that Iranian scientist Sirous Asghari freed in U.S. captivity will soon return to Iran

Asgari had tested positive for coronavirus in prison. He broke the story in an interview with the Guardian on April 28.

“Sirous Asgari has been acquitted of charges and if his coronavirus test proves negative, he will return to the country with the first flight,” Zarif told reporters after attending a parliamentary committee meeting.

All necessary measures have been taken for his return, Zarif added.

Asgari, a materials science and engineering professor, had visited the U.S. to see her daughters that was arrested under the allegation of violating sanctions against Iran.

The professor, who has a history of respiratory problems, was exonerated in a U.S. sanctions trial last year, but Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) jail in Louisiana had refused to release him or allow him to return to Iran. 

Speaking at the parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, Zarif also said exchange of prisoners between Iran and the U.S. would not require any negotiations between the two sides.

According to parliamentary committee spokesman Seyed Hossein Naqavi Hosseini, Zarif said this could be done via the Swiss embassy which represents the U.S. interests in Iran.

“There is no problem in exchange of prisoners and detainees between Iran and the U.S. and we do not need negotiations and we will not hold any negotiations with the U.S. at all,” Naqavi Hosseini quoted Zarif as saying, Fars reported.

Government spokesman Ali Rabiei said on Sunday that Iran was ready to exchange all prisoners with the United States without preconditions, reminding that Washington had not yet responded.

“We have declared our readiness to exchange all prisoners and discuss their release without any preconditions, but the U.S. has refused to answer,” Rabiei said.

Zarif had also said in December that Tehran was ready for a full prisoner exchange with the U.S., tweeting, “The ball is in the U.S. court.” 

Rabiei held Washington responsible for the safety and health of all Iranian citizens held in U.S. prisons amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We hope that in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, which threatens the Iranian citizens in U.S. jails, the American government will finally prioritize human lives over politics,” he added, according to Fars.

Last Monday, the Iranian Foreign Ministry expressed concern about the conditions of the country’s nationals who are jailed by Washington while the coronavirus has vastly spread in the U.S.

“Unfortunately, a number of Iranian prisoners have been arrested and jailed in some European states and the U.S. for unjustified reasons and imaginary and baseless allegations and their freedom has always been on our agenda,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi told reporters via a video conference.

He referred to the squalid condition of the U.S. jails amid the coronavirus outbreak, saying, “We voice concern about the health of all Iranian nationals in the U.S. jails and we hope that they will be freed as soon as possible unconditionally.”