A 20-year-old computer science major arrested on April 10 at his parents’ home in Tehran by the regime forces has now reportedly contracted COVID-19 while in custody.
Ali Younesi, a high-achieving math and science student, was taken by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps without a warrant in a very violent arrest that allegedly left his forehead split and his body badly beaten.
Younesi was a computer science major at Sharif University in Tehran. He took gold at the International Astronomy Olympiad in China in 2018.
Younesi’s brother Reza, who has taken to Twitter to spread the word about his brother’s case, tweeted that the family “is extremely worried about his health,” given that the Iranian regime has a history of human rights violations.
These concerns were realized this week when Younesi told his family that he had contracted the coronavirus and is in poor health.
On the same day of his arrest, another top Iranian science student, Amirhossein Moradi, was also arrested. Moradi was studying physics alongside Younesi at Sharif University and took silver at Iran’s National Astronomy Olympiad in 2017.
Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili indirectly accused the two students of planning attacks in Iran with opposition group Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK). Esmaili reported in a conference last month that the two recently-arrested students were “looking to carry out sabotaging operations in the country,” though no evidence was provided to support this claim.
“Iranian authorities have a history of targeting dissidents’ family members on bogus charges, and after nearly two months, they have failed to provide an iota of evidence against Younesi and Moradi,” Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch said.
According to Younesi’s family, the two students have been in solitary confinement for almost two months without access to a lawyer.
A petition on change.org has asked The United Nations to call on the Islamic Republic of Iran to release Younesi and others who have been detained for alleged ties to opposition groups. It also asks to open an independent investigation on the day that Younesi was arrested. To date, the petition has over 6,300 signatures.