When a respected Iranian scientist left Tehran for the United States last fall, he was considering completing the final phase of his research on the treatment of stroke patients during a research visit to the prestigious clinic. Mayo of Minnesota.
Instead, when Professor Masoud Soleimani landed on US soil, the federal authorities, armed with a secret charge, arrested him for accusations that he had violated trade sanctions while attempting to to import biological material into Iran.
Nine months later, as tensions escalated between the two countries, Soleimani was in a detention center south of Atlanta, implicated in a legal battle over the imposition of heavy US sanctions. resulted in a price explosion in Iran.
His lawyers say Soleimani – who works in stem cell research, hematology, immunology and regenerative medicine – has been confiscated on the plans of a former student to surrender states. United States in September 2016 as an opportunity to use recombinant proteins in its research. a fraction of the price he would pay at home.
Prosecutors said however that trying to transport was illegal and stealing the indictment against Soleimani in June 2018. Government officials have locked his visa and arrested him in October when he landed in Chicago.
Soleimani and two of his former students are accused of planning and attempting to export biological material from the United States to Iran without authorization. Both counts of indictment are punishable by a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment.
The lawyers of the three scientists say that your customers have not done anything wrong. Argument No special license was required because the proteins are medical equipment and are not imported into Iran for non-commercial purposes.
The US Attorney's Office in Atlanta declined to comment, but prosecutors have argued in court documents that the extensive sanctions in place for years do not allow the export of goods to Iran except under very limited conditions that do not apply in this country. case.
Soleimani had contacted Mahboobe Ghaedi, a US resident resident of the United States, who had worked in stem cell research and regenerative medicine at several American universities to obtain recombinant proteins, the indictment said .
Among the proteins that cost about $ 8,000 in the United States, Soleimani would have cost Iran about $ 40,000, his lawyer Leonard Franco said.
Ghaedi ordered the proteins from American companies and sent them to Maryam Jazayeri, who agreed to send them to Soleimani on her trip to Iran to visit documents filed by the family.
Jazayeri, an Iranian born in the United States, holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Biochemistry and resides in Kentucky, was arrested and interrogated at the Atlanta Airport on September 6, 2016, her lawyers wrote in a filing room. The customs officers searched your luggage and took out the bottles of recombinant proteins before taking your flight.
When prosecutors obtained an indictment nearly two years later, they hid it, declaring in court that Soleimani was living in Iran, but was actually planning to take the United States into a close future and could cancel his plans when the charges are revealed. before he traveled.
Franco wrote in court that Soleimani's research "has led to medical advances that save lives in the regeneration of non-functional parts of the human body".
The recombinant proteins used to help speed up stem cell research, said Franco.
"I think it's important because it's not a support activity for terrorism," he said. "It's an activity to heal people, to serve you, not to hurt you."
UCLA Bioengineer Professor Ali Khademhosseini wrote in a letter accompanying Soleimani's request to dismiss the charges that the substances have a shelf life of three to six months and "can not be used at malicious purposes, such as the composition of biological, chemical or other substances ". Types of weapons. "
An FBI expert, analyzed They came to the same conclusion, noted the defense lawyers in the court documents.
But prosecutors do not mention terrorism. They claim that the sanctions used to prevent Iran from preventing trade with the United States are an exception. An exception to drugs and medical devices depends on the definition of these elements under federal law, prosecutors said.
"First and foremost, elements for medical research, including those proteins that are not in the definition," she wrote. Prosecutors argue that these items require a license from the Department of Treasury's Foreign Assets Control Bureau before they can be exported.
As educated and intelligent people, one can reasonably expect scientists to know the penalties against their country of birth, prosecutors say. The defender argues that the sanctions are fluid and vague and that the evolution of relations between countries is confusing.
The proteins were confiscated by Jazayeri, at the end of the administration of President Barack Obama, who saw a thaw between the two countries.
The United States and other world powers announced an agreement with Iran in July 2015, stating that its nuclear activities would be reduced in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions, although the United States has imposed new sanctions after Iran tested ballistic missiles. ,
After President Donald Trump took office, tensions escalated and he pulled the United States out of the nuclear deal in May 2018. Atlanta prosecutors were indicted on next month against Soleimani.
Ghaedi and Jazayeri are both released on bail. They both asked, tried, separately, arguing that they seemed to have been raised, as part of a larger investigation, that they complained about the charges against them, and that Evidence likely to result in a joint study was presented. unjustified prejudices against you.
A federal magistrate in Atlanta rejected a publication, Soleimani, claiming that he had no legal status in the United States as his visa had been canceled. He should therefore have been handed over to the Department of Homeland Security and be deported before disguising the expense.
Last Updated: July 08, 2019 00:51