On October 25, 2018, an airplane carrying Iranian professor Masoud Soleimani heading to the United States on a research mission touched down at a Chicago airport. One year on, the stem cell scientist remains incarcerated without a fair trial.
The 49-year-old Iranian professor and biomedical researcher at Tehran’s Tarbiat Modares University, who was traveling to the US with a visa issued upon an invitation by a US research centre, was detained by the FBI upon arrival.
The Mayo Clinic in Minnesota had invited Soeimani to lead a research program on the treatment of stroke patients.
Prosecutors in Atlanta have accused Soleimani, who works in stem cell research, haematology and regenerative medicine, and two of his former students of conspiring and attempting to export biological materials from the US to Iran without authorisation, in violation of American sanctions.
The two students were charged in a court and released after posting bail because they held US citizenship.
Federal prosecutors claim the attempted transport was illegal and secretly obtained an indictment against Soleimani in June 2018.
During his sole court appearance on May 14, 2019, Soleimani was charged with trying to transfer to Iran via his students a few vials of growth hormone — a substance readily available on the market and not subject to sanctions.
Soleimani is reportedly suffering from several health problems which have been aggravated during his incarceration.
Moreover, he has lost his mother during his time in jail, of which he remains uninformed.
Social media activists have launched a campaign with the hashtag #Free_Masoud_Soleimani to draw global attention to the case of the imprisoned Iranian scientist, one year on.