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Iran says scientist jailed in US 'to return in days'

Iran is holding at least five Americans, and the United States has 15 Iranians in detention [John Minchillo/AP]
Sirous Asgari was accused of stealing trade secrets in the United States but was acquitted last November.

Iranian scientist Sirous Asgari, who is jailed in the United States, will return to Iran within days, Iran's foreign ministry said on Monday.
Asgari was accused by a US court in 2016 of stealing trade secrets while on an academic visit to Ohio. But the 59-year-old scientist from Tehran's Sharif University of Technology was acquitted in November.
"Dr Sirous Asgari's case has been closed in America and he will probably return to the country in the next two or three days," ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi was quoted as saying by ISNA news agency.
"That is, if no issues or obstacles come up," he added.
There was no immediate comment from the US.
If he returns to Iran, the scientist would become one of the few detainees held by either side not to have been released in a prisoner exchange.

COVID-19 stricken

Iran's foreign ministry said last month that Asgari had contracted coronavirus while in US custody.
The scientist told British newspaper The Guardian in March that the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency was keeping him in a detention centre in Louisiana without basic sanitation and refusing to let him return to Iran despite his exoneration.
Both countries hold a number of each other's nationals behind bars and have recently called for them to be released amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Iran is battling what is the Middle East's deadliest outbreak, while the US has reported the highest total number of virus deaths worldwide.
Iran is holding at least five Americans and the US has 15 Iranians in detention, according to a list compiled by AFP news agency based on official statements and media reports.

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