Imprisoned For Refusing to Work on Military Projects “Harmful to Humanity”

Omid Kokabee

Omid Kokabee

It was the end of January 2011. Young Iranian physics whiz Omid Kokabee had just had a pleasant winter break visiting with his family in Iran and was eagerly anticipating returning to Austin to continue his doctoral studies in the Physics Department at the University of Texas. He was at the airport in Tehran when security agents approached him; instead of boarding his flight as planned, his life suddenly turned into a nightmare from which he has yet to awaken.

It is now three years later and Omid Kokabee sits in Evin Prison in Tehran, serving a ten-year prison sentence after being convicted in a Revolutionary Court of unsubstantiated charges of “communicating with a hostile government” (presumably the U.S.) and “accepting illegal funds” (apparently a reference to the stipend that graduate students at his department typically receive).

While in detention, he was held in solitary confinement, subjected to prolonged interrogations, and pressured to make a confession. His interrogators reportedly threatened that he would be tortured and that professors at Iranian universities with whom he had worked would be arrested. During questioning, he was reportedly made to write down details of individuals he had seen in embassies or at conferences, and was told by those questioning him that some of the people he had met were CIA operatives.

Amnesty International has declared him to be a prisoner of conscience, held solely for his refusal to work on military projects in Iran and as a result of spurious charges related to his legitimate scholarly ties with academic institutions outside of Iran. AI calls for his immediate and unconditional release from prison.

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Before the Sochi Olympics, Let President Putin Know He’s Not Fooling Anyone

Mikhail Kosenko has had psychiatric treatment forced upon him after participating in a peaceful protest in Bolotnaya Square (Photo Credit: Vasily Maximov/AFP/Getty Images).

Mikhail Kosenko has had psychiatric treatment forced upon him after participating in a peaceful protest in Bolotnaya Square (Photo Credit: Vasily Maximov/AFP/Getty Images).

Mikhail Kosenko had an ordinary life. He spent a lot of time in libraries and bookshops. His sister describes him as an intelligent, well-informed person.

Then one day, he decided to peacefully and publicly express his opinion. Against President Vladimir Putin.

In Russia, such opinions are not welcome. They are violently discouraged.

Stop the crackdown against people like Mikhail.

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4 Things We Want to Hear During Obama’s State of the Union Address Tonight

U.S. President Barack Obama walks along the colonnade of the White House from the residence to the Oval Office before the State Of The Union speech (Photo Credit: Kristoffer Tripplaar-Pool/Getty Images).

U.S. President Barack Obama walks along the colonnade of the White House from the residence to the Oval Office before the State Of The Union speech (Photo Credit: Kristoffer Tripplaar-Pool/Getty Images).

 

When President Obama addresses Congress tonight, he must give more than just lip service to human rights. We’ll be watching the State of the Union and listening to what he will propose on these four issues:

1. Immigration Reform

The President must work with Congress to fix the United States’ broken immigration system. Since 2001, immigration detention in the United States has more than doubled from just over 200,000 annually to 478,000 in 2012, an all-time high.

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Solving the ‘Big Brother Problem’ of Mass Surveillance

A demonstrator wearing tape over her mouth takes part in a protest against government in Washington, D.C. (Photo Credit: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images).

A demonstrator wearing tape over her mouth takes part in a protest against government in Washington, D.C. (Photo Credit: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images).

By Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International

The ‘Big Brother Problem’ has helped to kick off this year’s discussions of the most pressing problems facing the world today as the World Economic Forum meeting gets under way in Davos, Switzerland.

This is an important recognition of the urgency of the issue. It is one that affects every single one of us and is an area of law that needs to be resolved.

Some of the most memorable headlines of 2013 involved personal privacy, data security and intelligence gathering issues from all corners of the globe – from the U.S. to Brazil, from Australia to India.

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11,000 Reasons For Real Action in Syria

Syrian women, men and children, crossing the border to Jordan. Forced to leave everything behind, except what they can carry, they're running for their lives (Photo Credit: Sweaters for Syria).

Syrian women, men and children, crossing the border to Jordan. Forced to leave everything behind, except what they can carry, they’re running for their lives (Photo Credit: Sweaters for Syria).

By Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International

WARNING: Images below contain graphic content. 

Beaten, burned, bruised, strangled bodies lying on a dirty floor. Some show signs of starvation, others are missing their eyes, a number of them appear to have been electrocuted. The horror is nearly impossible to describe. But it is hardly surprising.

The thousands of photographs, part of a report published on Tuesday, provide evidence of the torture and killing of around 11,000 individuals detained in Syria between the start of the uprising in 2011 and August last year.

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THIS EXISTS: Law Allows Rapists to Escape Prison If They Marry Underage Victims

Zohra Filali holds a picture of her daughter, Amina, the week after she committed suicide. Amina took her own life by drinking rat poison in March 2012 after being forced to marry the man who allegedly raped her.

Zohra Filali holds a picture of her daughter, Amina, the week after she committed suicide. Amina took her own life by drinking rat poison in March 2012 after being forced to marry the man who allegedly raped her.

Amina Filali committed suicide by swallowing rat poison in March 2012. She was 16 years old. Her desperate act showed the depth of her pain and despair: she must have felt that nobody was there to help her.

We soon learned that Amina had been raped in her small Moroccan town, by a man she was then forced to marry. Imagine being married to your rapist, to be forced to see that person all the time – it would be devastating.

He married her because Moroccan law allows rapists to escape prosecution by marrying their victim, if she is aged under 18.

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