Top Iranian student under arrest since April has contracted coronavirus in prison

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Ali Younesi, a high-achieving Iranian student under arrest in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison since April, has contracted the coronavirus, his brother said on Thursday.

On April 10, security forces physically assaulted and arrested 20-year-old Younesi at his parents’ house without a warrant. He is a second year Computer Science student at Tehran’s prestigious Sharif University and won gold at the International Astronomy Olympiad in 2018 in China.

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Younesi informed his family in a phone call on Wednesday that he has contracted the coronavirus and that he is in poor physical condition, his brother Reza Younesi tweeted on Thursday.

After 59 days in solitary confinement, Younesi has been transferred to a cell where he and seven others are being held, his brother added in the same tweet.

Read more: One in five Iranians may have had coronavirus: Health official

Authorities had also arrested Amirhossein Moradi, another high-achieving student, on the same day as Younesi.

Moradi is a Physics student at Sharif University and won silver at Iran’s National Astronomy Olympiad in 2017. There are no details of Moradi’s status in prison.

Read more: Inside Iran: Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison

Moradi’s parents went to Evin prison on Thursday to see their son after more than two months but were not allowed to do so by the prison authorities, said Younesi’s brother.

The Moradi family has hired a lawyer but he has not been allowed to review the case, Younesi added.

Last month, judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili indirectly accused the two students of working with the opposition group Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) and planning attacks inside Iran.

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“Two recently arrested students had unfortunately become affiliated with anti-revolutionary groups, especially with the [MEK], and were looking to carry out sabotaging operations in the country,” Esmaili said at a press conference on May 5, without naming the students.

Younesi’s brother Reza and his sister Aida, who are both outside Iran, have rejected the judiciary’s accusations, saying their brother has never been involved in any kind of political activism and that education has always been his sole focus.

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