An Iranian scientist jailed in the United States despite being freed from complicity in a trade secrets case would finally be returning home this week after being deported by the U.S government.
Al Jazeera News reports that Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif congratulated the scholar’s wife and family on Instagram that their bread winner, Professor Sirous Asgari, was travelling on a flight back to Tehran.
Asgari, a Sharif University of Technology professor, was convicted in the first quarter of 2016 while on an academic research visit to America.
Federal prosecutors in the U.S had found him guilty of attempting to steal specially-protected research from Case Western Reserve University. The U.S research institution had been contracted to work on a project for the United States Navy to help in the production of stainless steel which would not undergo any kind of corrosion when in contact with water-like liquids.
Asgari was eventually acquitted in November 2019 after U.S District Judge, James Gwin, determined the case in the favor of the Iranian.
Also, Ken Cuccinelli, deputy secretary of Department of Homeland Security (DHS), told The Associated Press it made efforts to repatriate Asgari on December 12 after his declared free. However, he said, Iran refused to grant him citizenship recognition until after about 60 days.
Upon being issued an Iranian passport, the DHS made some failed attempts to repatriate him because of flights cancellation during coronavirus pandemic lockdown globally.
Ardent followers of Asgari complained to The Guardian newspaper in April that he had been infected with coronavirus while at the Louisiana’s Winn Correctional Center.
Also according to state-operated IRNA News Agency, Hossein Salar Amoli, Iran’s deputy Education Minister, recently stated that Asgari tested negative to the deadly virus and would be allowed to travel to Iran consequently.
It was not stated if Iran was willing to free Americans held in her prison as part of the bargain.
Assal Rad, from the National Iranian-American Council, said the idea of a prisoner exchange could kick-start a historic step in easing the hostile relationship between the two countries.
Al Jazeera reports that Rad noted the speculation comes from the fact that a prisoner swap is the easiest international diplomacy opportunity in a situation where countries desire a relationship growth, especially coming from a background where both countries had recently threatened each other with war.
Also, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Tehran, Zein Basravi, said the situation had become a bit of ‘tossing cards’ in a political game.
He noted United States immigration officials complain about Iran not making sufficient plans for Asgari, as well as a handful of Iranian citizens the U.S plans to repatriate, despite Iran telling the whole world in the last few weeks that the U.S did not want to return her citizens.
It is believed that some Iranian citizens are in protective custody in the U.S, and that there are over 5 Americans in Iranian prison.
There have been many theories on whether American prisoners held in Iran would be released following the recent American release of Asgari.
On the contrary, Detroit News reports that many analysts assert that the release of Asgari is a function of the U.S system and not necessarily one that would birth the release of Americans from Iranian prisons.
On the contrary, there is some thinking that this whole drama could lead to some exchange of prisoners, since the Iranian government might like to leverage Asgari’s repatriation as an opportunity to project her image of human rights respect before the world.
Among the US citizens detained in Iran is US Navy veteran, Michael White, who was locked up in July 2018 while visiting a girlfriend in Iran. He was accused of directing foul language at the respected Ayatollah Khamenei as well as posting personal information on the internet.
Also, France24 confirms that White was freed in March on a medical furlough that mandated him to stay in the country under the care of the Swiss Embassy located in the capital. White is among thousands of jailed persons granted medical furloughs by Iran, which was one of the first few countries hit by the deadly coronavirus.
In December last year, Iran freed a Princeton University graduate student who had been detained for 3 years on controversial espionage charges in exchange for the freedom of another detained Iranian science practitioner.
In March, the family of retired FBI personnel, Robert Levinson, who went missing in Iran 13 years ago after a controversial CIA mission, said they had been reliably informed by US officials that Levinson had possibly lost his life.
Charlotte Observer reports that foreigners from tier 1 countries always get tried and convicted in kangaroo courts in Iran as a ploy to later use them as bargaining chips during tough negotiations.
The release of Asgari comes in the time frame when the U.S under President Donald Trump is implementing a campaign to exert maximum pressure on Iran after unilaterally pulling out from Tehran’s nuclear agreement with world Germany, France, Russia and other countries in May 2018.
Since 2018, both Iran and the U.S have recorded some moments of tension; including the U.S drone attack responsible for the death of Qasem Soleimani, Iranian ballistic missile targeting U.S military troops in Iraq as well as the recent determination of Iran to send 5 oil vessels to Venezuela.