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US trying to entrap Iranian scientists: Minister

Mansour Gholami, Iran's minister of science, research, and technology

Iran’s minister of science, research, and technology says the United States has set a trap for Iranian scientists, enabling their entry into the country before arresting them.

Speaking to ISNA, Mansour Gholami, said the US has identified a number of Iranian professors, who have conducted research in certain areas, published relevant scientific articles, and ordered and bought laboratory equipment, the agency reported on Wednesday.

“They issue visas for Iranian professors and arrest them upon their arrival in the US,” he said, noting. “This is a type of game they play to lure Iranian professors there.”

He also ruled out the possibility that those targeted in the scheme might have been in violation of Washington’s sanctions. “If it had to do with the sanctions, they (the Americans) would announce it in advance,” Gholami said.

“Drawing the professors into the country and arresting them in such a fashion shows that the Americans have laid a trap for us,” the minister specified.

Massoud Soleimani, a 49-year-old Iranian scientist left Iran on sabbatical last year, but was arrested upon arrival in Chicago and transferred to prison in Atlanta, Georgia for unspecified reasons.

His brother has said in interviews that the only accusation facing him is that two of his students were arrested while departing the United States three years ago because they were carrying five vials of growth hormone. This is while such material is readily available on the market and not subject to sanctions, he explained.

The two students were charged in a court and released after posting bail because they held US citizenship.

Soleimani was “definitely” being held hostage by the US administration, his brother said. “How can a researcher and a physician, who does not have any criminal record and boasts numerous articles published in international circles, be placed in detention?” he asked.

He also revealed that the professor had been pressed to confess that the purchase of the growth hormones had been made with an intent to “circumvent the American sanctions” against Iran.

US authorities said such a confession would pave the way for a plea bargain, his brother said, adding, however, that “Soleimani refused to accept the offer.”

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