US has taken several Iranian scientists hostage: Zarif

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused the US of taking Iranian scientists hostage and refusing to grant them medical furlough in the wake of coronavirus outbreak.

“US has taken several Iranian scientists hostage—without charge or on spurious sanctions charges—& not releasing them; even when its OWN courts reject the absurd charges,” wrote Zarif in a tweet on Friday referring to the remarks of an Iranian scientist detained in the US.

“US even refuses medical furlough—amid #covid19—for innocent men jailed in horrific facilities,” he added.

Iranian diplomat stressed, “Release our men.”

An Iranian scientist Dr. Sirous Asgari who was exonerated in a US sanctions trial but remains jailed by immigration authorities said the conditions in detention were filthy and overcrowded and officials were doing little to prevent a deadly coronavirus outbreak.

He was acquitted in November on federal charges of stealing trade secrets related to his academic work with a university in Ohio. Although the US government lost its case on all charges, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) has kept him indefinitely detained since the trial.

He told the Guardian that his Ice holding facility in Alexandria, Louisiana, had no basic cleaning practices in place and continued to bring in new detainees from across the country with no strategy to minimize the threat of Covid-19.

According to Guardian, the situation is particularly worrying for Asgari, who is at risk of getting pneumonia if infection like Covid-19 reaches his lungs. Given the conditions at ASF and treatment of detainees, if he were to get coronavirus there, “I don’t think I would survive,” he said.

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