An Iranian scientist acquitted by federal court of stealing U.S. trade secrets was deported back to Iran on Tuesday, the country’s top diplomat said on social media.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Instagram that a plane carrying 59-year-old Sirous Asgari had left the United States. He did not provide further details.
Federal prosecutors had indicted Asgari, a professor at the Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, on charges of visa fraud and theft of trade secrets in violation of U.S. sanctions in 2016.
He was accused of passing on technical information from a project he worked on to create and produce anti-corrosive stainless steel, an initiative funded by the U.S. Navy Office of Naval Research, the Associated Press reported.
Last year, a federal judge dismissed the case mid-trial, ruling that the prosecutors’ evidence was insufficient. Asgari remained in U.S. detention, and in March, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement flew the professor across the country nine times, sources from the investigative journalism nonprofit ProPublica.
Iranian officials in recent weeks have suggested that Asgari’s deportation could lead to a wider prisoner exchange with the United States. Among the U.S. citizens held in Iran is U.S. Navy veteran Michael White.