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US holding Iranian stem cell scientist for nearly a year without trial

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The file photo shows renowned Iranian stem cell scientist Dr. Masoud Soleimani.

Top Iranian stem cell scientist Dr. Masoud Soleimani has been behind bars in the United States without trial for nearly a year.

Soleimani, a professor and biomedical researcher at Tarbiat Modares University (TMU) in Tehran, was arrested by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) upon his arrival in the US in October last year.

Soleimani had been invited by the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for leading a research program there, but he was secretly indicted by the FBI, which also canceled his research visa.

According to his Atlanta attorney, Leonard Franco, he has since been held behind bars in a jail in Atlanta without bond.

Prosecutors in Atlanta have accused him and two of his former students of conspiring and attempting to export vials of human growth hormone from the US to Iran without authorization, in violation of US sanctions.

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

According to Soleimani’s lawyer, the human growth hormone is not banned in the US or Iran and was being used “exclusively for medical research,” which is still considered largely exempt from US sanctions.

Meanwhile, the head of Tarbiat Modares University, Mohammad Taqi Ahmadi, has dismissed prosecutors' claims as “ridiculous and unacceptable,” calling Soleimani’s detention a “harassment operation.”

Earlier this month, Ahmadi expressed deep concern over the dire situation of Dr. Soleimani, saying he was not in desirable conditions in jail and that all academics, even in the US, condemn his detention.

The scientist’s brother, Rasoul, also said professor Soleimani’s health condition had aggravated and his eyesight had gotten worse in detention. 

He said that his brother was unaware of his mother’s recent death and was waiting for his release while their father did not know about his brother’s detention. 

He said that Iranian officials were following up on the issue, adding that the Foreign Ministry and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif were updating his family on the measures taken so far.

He appealed to executive bodies, scientific and members of the media to help secure the release of the Iranian scientist.

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