Physicist Omid Kokabee, whose arrest and imprisonment in Iran galvanized the academic community for more than five years, has been granted parole by the Iranian court.
Kokabee was born in Iran in 1982. At age 18 he was recognized for his extraordinary intellectual power in Iran’s nationwide college entrance exams. He graduated with degrees in Applied Physics and Mechanical Engineering from Sharif University of Technology in 2015, specializing in laser physics, and was immediately accepted into the Physics Graduate Program at the University of Texas – Austin, but was unable to secure a visa. He worked for two years at Iranian industrial companies before entering a Master’s Program in laser physics at the Institute of Photonic Studies in Barcelona – Spain. During 2007-2010, Kokabee co-authored a number of research papers on ultra-intense lasers.
In 2010, Kokabee finally managed to secure a U.S. student visa and transferred to the University of Texas – Austin. During the winter break in 2011, he went to Tehran for a family visit. On his departure from Tehran he was arrested and charged with “communicating with a hostile government” (the United States) and “illegal earnings” (his doctoral student stipend). CCS appealed to Iran’s Supreme Leader with a request to correct “a grave mistake.” Many human rights and scientific professional organizations spoke on Kokabee’s behalf. In May 2012, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison by Iran’s Revolutionary Court.
In April 2013, Nature magazine released copies of Kokabee’s open letters in which he disclosed that before his arrest he repeatedly declined scientific and managerial positions in Iran’s military and intelligence organizations. Amnesty International declared him a “prisoner of conscience.” In September 2013, the American Physical Society awarded Kokabee the Andrei Sakharov Prize. AAAS followed suit by giving him the Scientific Freedom and Responsibility award. In October 2014, thirty-three physics Nobel laureates appealed to Iran’s Supreme Leader. In 2015, Javad Larijani, Director of Tehran’s Institute for Fundamental Research, and Ali Akbar Salehi, the Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, tried to intervene on Kokabee’s behalf.
In November 2015, Kokabee developed severe pain and was hospitalized. On the fifth anniversary of his imprisonment in January 2016, the CCS appealed to the Iranian President with a request to release Kokabee on humanitarian grounds. In April 2016, Kokabee was diagnosed with advanced Renal Cell Carcinoma and underwent a radical nephrectomy – total removal of his right kidney. In May 2016, he was granted a medical furlough, renewable every two weeks. At the end of August 2016 the court granted him parole.
The CCS thanks countless organizations and individuals in all parts of the world, as well as in Iran, that helped achieve freedom for Omid Kokabee. We wish Omid a full and speedy recovery and hope that he will soon be able to restart his career in science.
- Iran Releases Physicist after 5 Years in Jail (scientificamerican.com)
- Iran releases physicist after five years in jail (nature.com)
- Omid Kokabee, Texas Graduate Student, Released by Iran (usnews.com)
- Unjustly Imprisoned Young Physicist Granted Conditional Release After Five Years (iranhumanrights.org)
- Iranian Physicist Omid Kokabee Granted Parole (nationalacademies.org)
- Omid Kokabee Released After 5 Years in Jail (aps.org)