Jailed Iranian professor deported from the US, reaches Tehran
On Tuesday, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif announced in an Instagram post that jailed Iranian professor Dr Sirous Asgari was on his way back home. Various Iranian news agencies confirmed his arrival with a photograph that showed him wearing a mask and greeting his family. The professor has reportedly contracted coronavirus while in prison and the deportation had to wait till he had made a full recovery.
The 59-year-old materials science professor from Tehran was accused of stealing trade secrets in violation of US sanctions in April 2016. He was on a visit to Ohio to work on a project for the US Navy Office of Naval Research to create anti-corrosive stainless steel. He was finally acquitted by the courts in November last year. According to the Department of Homeland Security, they had sought to deport him in December but they were delays from the Iranian side who only provided him with a valid passport late in February this year.
Several attempts were made to send him back to Iran in the months of March, April and May but all flights were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. His case had caused outrage in March after he told The Guardian that he was being held in a Louisiana detention centre belonging to the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) which didn’t offer even basic sanitation facilities in light of the spreading pandemic. When he contracted the coronavirus, he was released to a medical facility for treatment due to his history of respiratory problems.
Both the US and Iran have denied that his deportation is part of a prisoner swap deal between the two countries.
Dr Sirous Asgari was acquitted by US courts of charges of stealing state secrets last November and has finally been sent back to Iran after several unsuccessful attempts.