Renowned Physicist in Danger of Dying if Returned to Prison in Iran

Kokabee nineIt didn’t have to be this way. A promising young physicist, beloved by his colleagues, lies in a hospital bed with just one kidney left. The other was removed because cancer had spread to the point where it was no longer salvageable. If he had only been permitted to get the treatment he needed earlier, he might still have his kidney today.

Omid Kokabee has already suffered far too much. The 33-year old scientist has been in either prison or the hospital since he was arrested in Iran more than five years ago in January 2011. After a flawed and unfair trial in an Iranian Revolutionary Court, he was sentenced to ten years in prison on absurd charges of communicating with a hostile government (ostensibly the United States). His crime? He had studied Physics in Barcelona and was doing doctoral research at the University of Texas, thereby making him a target of the Iranian security apparatus continually on the look-out for those they can claim to be traitors lured by western governments to subvert and undermine the Iranian government. Further, he was recognized as so talented, that the Iranian government had tried to recruit him to participate in that country’s nuclear program. Omid Kokabee had refused, as he intended to use his knowledge for peaceful purposes, including investigating the potential of lasers for new medical applications.

Amnesty International considers him to be a prisoner of conscience, persecuted solely because of 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.

In 2013 the American Physical Society awarded the Andrei Sakharov Prize to Omid Kokabee “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 Advancement in Science gave him its Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award.

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Thirty-three Nobel Physics Prize laureates signed on to a letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader in 2014, calling for Omid Kokabee’s release. Thousands, including Amnesty International activists and partner organizations such as the Committee of Concerned Scientists, the American Physical Society, Scholars at Risk, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Iranian-American humorist Maz Jobrani, and countless others joined the campaign to win freedom for Omid Kokabee.

In October 2014 we thought we saw the light at the end of the tunnel when the Iranian Supreme Court set aside his ten-year prison sentence and called for a re-trial. However, in an unprecedented rebuke to the Supreme Court, the Revolutionary Court reinstated the ten-year sentence in January 2015.

Omid Kokabee has suffered numerous severe medical problems while in prison including his kidney ailments, stomach pain, heart palpitations and severe dental problems resulting in the loss of several teeth. Health problems are frighteningly common among political prisoners in Iran due to the deplorable sanitary conditions and medical neglect in Iran’s prisons. Authorities ignored the recommendations of the prison doctor to release Omid Kokabee so that he could receive the specialized care he was not getting in prison—as mandated by Iranian law. He was finally permitted to go to a hospital in November 2015, by which time his condition was dire.

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Incredibly, Omid Kokabee could be returned to prison at any time and required to serve the remainder of his ten-year sentence. I fear that his health is far too fragile and that a return to prison could be fatal. I have been working on this case for many years now and feel a special connection to Omid. Just looking at these photos you can get an idea of what Omid is like as a person and his joie de vivre—he loves nature, is playful, curious and interested in the world around him—in addition to being a brilliant and gifted scientist. The reality that he is wasting away instead of engaging with the world is truly heart-wrenching. His teachers and fellow students in Barcelona and Austin have been working continually on his behalf, a testament to the depth of their feeling for this warm and friendly young man.

Please take action immediately to save Omid Kokabee’s life and urge the Iranian government to release him so that he does not need to go back to prison.

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5 thoughts on “Renowned Physicist in Danger of Dying if Returned to Prison in Iran

  1. I want to say about Omid, Omid is a one of the best Iranian young scientist that I proud him.I know about him and hs family in TORKMAN SAHRA (deseart) , in IRAN. I saw him in prison when I was in IRAN, and I went to see my brother Afshin in Evin prison. I saw Omid was happy and strong, from the other side, of opaque glass, when visiting prisoners. We had a short conversation about their situation in prison. Also I had spoken with his big family ,the people that they were cultured and educated .They are professors ,teachers and workmans in gonernmental officia loffices,so they are conservative regarding their jobs and their lives. Theyare under the presure and fear from Islamic Gonernment in Iran,for this reason they do not interview with medias.This fact is negative for Omid, because in Iran, if family be brave,they can come to fight field, more and more, also they can protest to the bad condition regarding Omid.In this way they can find more supports in Iran for Omid free. I told them(by one of his sisters ) with Telegram, but they are very scared.Then we don't have any chance from them. I try to publish his news in general space. We have very hard path to free him although we persist on our way against the Islamic Gonernment .Omid will become Free , Omid have to be Free .
    Thank you Elise

  2. شايد اگر يك لحظه به شرايط زندان در ايران مى انديشيديم به اين اين باور مى رسيديم كه تنها دليل در حبس بودن اميد و امثال نرگس و كبودوندها تنها و تنها فهميدن است و بس

  3. So sad…. What a shamelessly cruel injustice. I don’t always agree with Amnesty, yet you are the best hope that can save him.

  4. I wonder what the Prophet would say about this? I suspect:
    "Bring Omid to my house and physician and the less said about the rest of this nonsense the better"

    I lost a very dear friend to Khomeni. He went home to join the revolution having been exiled by the Shah…he had a PHD in electrical engineering, and a love of teaching. He got one letter out to me…mostly asking why I had not responded to the rest (??) then nothing…until two years later in a whole other world and life I walked in to the living room with mugs of tea in time to hear the TV tell me how they rounded up all the staff from the University of Zahedan, brought them to a prison where they sang all night to keep their spirits up, then shot them in the morning.

    He was such a coward he needed a local anaesthetic for you to sew a button on his shirt, that is how I know he was brave. we were supposed to be lovers but we were far more friends, which leaves a smaller hole in your life, but for longer…

    I didn't drop the mugs, but I never stop remembering. It would not be so bad if it was over in a decade, but it wasn't…I hope Omid makes it…he deserves to.

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