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Iranian scientist will return home soon if tested negative for COVID-19: FM Zarif

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says an Iranian scientist, who was detained in the US on groundless charges, has been freed and will return to the country if tested negative for coronavirus.

“He is free,” Zarif told reporters on Monday after taking part in a session of the Iranian Parliament’s Committee on National Security and Foreign Policy, adding, “Sirous Asgari has been acquitted of his charges and if he tested negative for COVID-19, he could return to the country on the first flight [bound to Iran].”

He noted that the Iranian Foreign Ministry has been working hard to pave the way for the scientist’s return to the country and all necessary measures have been taken in this regard.

Asgari, a professor of material sciences at Sharif University of Technology, was arrested in the United States in mid-2017. Back then, the FBI alleged the scientist had shared information about a project he had conducted on a sabbatical in the US five years before with his students.

US legal authorities then charged him with withholding information in the process of visa application, circumventing the sanctions, and transferring technology to Iran.

Asgari has repeatedly pleaded for his release since March, complaining about unsanitary detention conditions and overcrowding at the Louisiana facility, where he was kept.

Elsewhere in his remarks, the Iranian top diplomat noted that he has announced in New York some 1.5 years ago that the “Islamic Republic of Iran is ready to swap all Iranian prisoners, who are in jail in the US or other countries under the US pressure, with all American prisoners…but the Americans gave no response.”

Iran’s government spokesman Ali Rabiei said on Sunday that the country has expressed its readiness to exchange prisoners with the United States, but that it will not accept any preconditions from Washington.

“We have declared that there is readiness to exchange all prisoners and discuss their release without any preconditions, but the US has refused to respond,” he told Khabaronline news website.

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