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Lasers & Sources

New appeal for SPIE member Kokabee

SPIE Newsroom
26 August

Omid KokabeeThe Committee of Concerned Scientists (CCS) has endorsed a new appeal on behalf of SPIE member and University of Texas at Austin student Omid Kokabee, who has been imprisoned in Teheran since his arrest in February 2011.

SPIE, CCS, and many other scientific and human rights organizations have been advocating for the release of the photonics grad student for more than two years.

In letters posted late last week to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and to Catherine Ashton, the High Representative to the European Union, CSS leaders said Kokabee's "prolonged detention without trial, followed by proceedings that failed to adhere to international trial standards suggest his detention is arbitrary under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights." The Islamic Republic of Iran is a signatory to both.

An Iranian court sentenced Kokabee to 10 years imprisonment in May 2012 for allegedly conspiring with foreign countries against Iran.

Photo: Presentation on Omid Kokabee 

Kokabee's case and the topic of scientific and academic freedom were also discussed during a professional skills workshop at SPIE Optics+Photonics in San Diego on Sunday.

A presentation by Ellen Hutchinson (above) from UT Austin, "Freedom of Science: the case of Omid Kokabee," attracted about 30 people for a discussion on the case.

Kokabee is a graduate of Sharif University of Technology in Tehran who later studied at Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya in Spain where he obtained a master's degree in photonics. He was arrested in Tehran in February 2011 on charges of "communicating with a hostile government" and "illegal earnings."

According to a report from Nature, 10 to 15 people were tried at the same time, under the collective charge of collaborating with Israel's intelligence agency, Mossad. Whereas other prisoners in the group declared themselves guilty in a television broadcast on the evening before the trial, the physics student has consistently denied all charges and refused to speak in court.

In August 2011, in a letter addressed to Ayatollah Ali Khamene'i, Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the presidents of SPIE and three other optical organizations appealed for a quick review of Kokabee's case so that he could resume his research.

Related news on Omid Kokabee:

Science imprisoned: Barcelona meeting brings attention to cases of scientists denied academic research freedom through imprisonment