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Iranian scientist in Ice detention tests positive for Covid-19

An Iranian scientist who has been pleading for weeks to be released from a US immigration jail due to his fragile health has contracted Covid-19, according to his family and attorneys.

Dr Sirous Asgari, a materials science and engineering professor who spoke out in March about the unsanitary and “inhumane” conditions in detention, was placed in an isolation cell this week inside an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) jail in Louisiana. His lawyers learned on Tuesday that his Covid-19 test was positive.

He and his family are calling for his release to a medical facility where he can receive proper care.

But Ice told Asgari’s lawyers he would only be released to a hospital if he was struggling to breathe, his attorneys said. Bryan Cox, an Ice spokesman, said there were two confirmed Covid-19 cases at Winn but declined to answer specific questions about Asgari.

“It makes sense to send me to the hospital as soon as possible. I don’t trust them at all,” Asgari said in a phone call with the Guardian on Tuesday, amid repeated coughing fits.

Asgari’s story sparked international outrage after he spoke about his fears of Covid-19 spreading inside crowded Ice facilities with substandard cleaning practices and a lack of supplies. The professor, who has a history of respiratory problems, was exonerated in a US sanctions trial last year, but Ice has refused to release him or allow him to return to Iran. Iran’s foreign minister recently called for his release, as have some US lawmakers and human rights groups.

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