Although he was exonerated, Dr Sirous Asgari remains locked up and tells the Guardian ‘inhumane’ jail is denying detainees masks and hand sanitizer
An Iranian scientist who was exonerated in a US sanctions trial but remains jailed by immigration authorities said the conditions in detention were filthy and overcrowded – and officials were doing little to prevent a deadly coronavirus outbreak.
Dr Sirous Asgari, a materials science and engineering professor, was acquitted in November on federal charges of stealing trade secrets related to his academic work with a university in Ohio. Although the US government lost its case on all charges, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) has kept him indefinitely detained since the trial. Now he’s speaking out about the “inhumane” treatment that could cost him his life.
Detainees have no hand sanitizer, and the facility is not regularly cleaning bathrooms or sleeping areas. Asgari and a few other detainees have devised a schedule to try to clean surfaces themselves with the minimal soap available.
Detainees lack access to masks. For two weeks, ASF also refused to let Asgari wear his own protective mask, which he brought with him to the facility, and it has refused to supply one, despite his history of serious respiratory problems.
Detainees struggle to stay clean, and the facility has an awful stench. Because the facility is supposed to be temporary, there is no laundry available and detainees are stuck with the clothes they were wearing upon arrival, sometimes after long journeys.
There are no physical distancing guidelines at the facility. It appears no procedures or practices have changed in response to Covid-19 since Asgari’s arrival, even as Louisiana state and federal officials have urged people to isolate.