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Lasers & Sources

After five years in prison, an appeal for Omid Kokabee’s release

SPIE Newsroom
2 February 2016

Omid KokabeeOn the fifth anniversary of Omid Kokabee's imprisonment in Iran, the Committee of Concerned Scientists appealed to Iranian president Hassan Rouhani for his unconditional release. Kokabee, an Iranian doctoral student in laser physics at the University of Texas, Austin, was arrested in 2011 while visiting his family in Iran.

On August 20, 2015, Omid Kokabee turned 33, his fifth birthday in prison. Two months later he developed anemia, abdominal bleeding and severe pain, and was rushed to Tehran's Taleghani hospital. He currently remains in a hospital.

Kokabee, a member of SPIE, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for allegedly conspiring with foreign countries against Iran. He had been charged with communicating with a hostile government and receiving illegal earnings. His prosecution is widely believed to be related to his refusal to work on Iran's nuclear program. He was granted a new trial by Iran's supreme court in October 2014, but a few months later, the Tehran Appeals Court upheld the sentence.

In September 2014, 18 Physics Nobel laureates signed an open letter addressed to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, calling for Kokabee's release.

While in prison, Kokabee was awarded the 2013 Andrei Sakharov Prize by the American Physical Society for "his courage in refusing to use his physics knowledge to work on projects that he deemed harmful to humanity, in the face of extreme physical and psychological pressure." In 2014, the American Association for the Advancement of Science awarded him its 2014 Freedom and Responsibility Award.

The Committee of Concerned Scientists is an independent organization of scientists, physicians, engineers and scholars devoted to the protection and advancement of human rights and scientific freedom for colleagues all over the world.