“Masoud Soleimani, professor of biology at Tarbiat Modares University has been detained by the FBI since 7 October 2018 for baseless charges. He was invited by Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for leading a research program there and was arrested at the airport upon his arrival in the US and transferred to a prison in Atlanta […]
“Masoud Soleimani, professor of biology at Tarbiat Modares University has been detained by the FBI since 7 October 2018 for baseless charges. He was invited by Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for leading a research program there and was arrested at the airport upon his arrival in the US and transferred to a prison in Atlanta last October. He has since been held behind bars in jail in Atlanta without bond and is held in a ward where criminals are jailed. The US authorities have imprisoned the hematology researcher without providing any evidence against him,” the petition said.
“Professor Soleimani is widely known in the field of hematology research and has no criminal history anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, professor Soleimani suffers from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and he doesn’t have access to his medicine in jail. Moreover, as a result of unjust conditions in jail, he has become nearsighted and he doesn’t even have access to the glasses,” it added.
“We, who sign this petition believe that Professor Soleimani should be treated according to his dignity and must be freed from the jail immediately,” the petition concluded.
The Iranian academics invited their colleagues across the globe to join the petition.
On Wednesday, President of Tarbiat Modares University in Iran Mohammad Taqi Ahmadi expressed deep concern about the dire situation of Dr. Soleimani.
“We are concerned about the health conditions of Massoud Soleimani. Dr. Soleimani is not in a desirable conditions in jail and all academics, even in the US, condemn his detention,” Ahmadi told reporters in Tehran on Wednesday.
He added that Soleimani is being kept in a detention center which also hosts dangerous criminals.
Also, Rasoul Soleimani, the brother of Dr. Soleimani, said on Wednesday that the Iranian scientist’s health conditions has deteriorated and he has lost over 15kg of his weight.
“He has not access to his main medicine yet,” he added, warning that his brother is in danger.
In relevant remarks on Monday, Iranian Minister of Science, Research and Technology Mansour Gholami rapped the US for prolonging detention of professor Soleimani, describing it as a move out of mere animosity towards Iran.
“The Americans have held the Iranian scientist in detention out of hostility and without any proof and reason and they should free the prominent professor immediately,” Gholami told FNA.
He noted that the US administration should have allowed Soleimani to enjoy his full legal rights since he was put under arrest, but it never did, “and it, hence, is duty-bound to compensate for the different moral and physical harms inflicted on the Iranian scientist”.
In relevant remarks on Saturday, Rasoul Soleimani said that he has likely been imprisoned for rejecting cooperation in a highly important research project for the US several years ago, and is under pressure to cooperate with the United States.
“Some 7 years ago, he traveled to California for a research project, and there he received some charming offers, but turned them down,” he said.
“As far as I know him, he will not accept cooperation with the US even if he is kept in prison for a lifetime,” he added.
Rasoul complained that the US has jailed his brother for over 11 months without holding a court session and without any evidence against him.
Earlier this month, Rasoul Soleimani had blasted the US for violating human rights and prolonged detention of his brother without any proof, and said Massoud is not even aware of his mother’s death who went into a 6-month coma after hearing about her son’s situation.
“When professor Soleimani was jailed in the US, we did not inform our mother and father but unfortunately on March 15, one of our relatives told her about Dr. Soleimani’s situation accidentally and she had a stroke after 24 hours, was in coma for nearly 6 months and passed away earlier this week,” Rasoul told FNA at the time.
He said that Dr. Soleimani is not aware of his mother’s death, adding that when he heard that his mother was in coma he was in a very poor mental status.
Rasoul noted that his brother has lost 15kg of his weight due to the bad quality of food in the US jail.
He described the US as a disloyal government, saying that they persuaded Dr. Soleimani to visit the US to cooperate in a project and then they arrested him.
Soleimani has been imprisoned by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) without trial since October 07, 2018.
Back in October, Soleimani, a professor and biomedical researcher at the Tarbiat Modares University (TMU) in Tehran, was arrested by the FBI upon his arrival in the US.
According to his Atlanta attorney, Leonard Franco, he has since been held behind bars in a jail in Atlanta without bond.
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. Neither the FBI nor the US prosecutors have so far officially commented on his detention.
BJay Pak, the US attorney in Atlanta, secured Soleimani’s indictment on June 12, 2018, just a month after President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal, and Soleimani had been fully unaware of such an indictment when he flew to the US.
Franco and Page Pate, another Atlanta lawyer, said that they had been puzzled by the federal government’s decision to prosecute a renowned Iranian professor and two of his former students – Mahboobe Ghaedi and Maryam Jazayeri – for purported trade sanction violations over eight vials of human growth hormone.
Franco said that Soleimani’s treatment by federal authorities, the revocation of his visa and the decision to detain him without bond doesn’t square with Soleimani’s international reputation as a scholar, professor, and doctor widely known in the field of stem cell research and regenerative medicine. Soleimani has no criminal history anywhere in the world, he added.
The hormone, which is a form of synthetic protein, was seized from Jazayeri in 2016 by customs authorities in Atlanta when she was heading to Iran to give it to professor Soleimani for research purposes. Jazayeri had received the hormone from Ghaedi.
The seizure occurred at a time when Washington was still a signatory to the 2015 nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and anti-Iran sanctions had not been re-imposed yet.
The 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, Franco said.
However, Ghaedi and Jazayeri faced similar federal charges for attempting to supply Soleimani with the growth hormone.
Ghaedi is a permanent American resident and an assistant professor at Yale University’s School of Medicine. She is free on a $250,000 bond. Jazayeri is a naturalized US citizen and Kentucky resident and has conducted medical research at the University of Louisville. She is currently free on a $200,000 bond.
“I truly don’t understand it,” Franco said of the government’s decision to prosecute, adding that it appeared to be “some type of policy argument”. Pate, who represents Jazayeri, said his client was “completely confused by all this.”
Motions to dismiss the charges are pending in federal court in Atlanta in front of US District Judge Eleanor Ross. However, Federal prosecutors in Atlanta have not yet responded to the motions.
Hearing this case has been adjourned for at least three times since October and his family and the TMU have so far paid $70,000 to his lawyers to prove his innocence, but all to no avail, said TMU’s Vice-chancellor for Research Affairs Yaghoub Fathollahi.
Fathollahi added that Soleimani is a distinguished professor who has been ranked among the top 1% scientists in the world.
Almost 50 Iranian nationals are currently imprisoned in the United States under various pretexts, mainly bypassing the US sanctions. Even American citizens working for Iranian entities are not immune from US government’s hostile policies.
Back in January, the FBI took Muslim journalist Marzieh Hashemi, who works for Iran’s English-language Press TV television, from St. Louis Lambert International Airport to a detention center in Washington DC without placing any charges against her, forcing her to eat pork and remove her Islamic hijab.