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Immediate & Unconditional Release of Omid Kokabee
Petition Background (Preamble):
Iranian says he was jailed for refusing to engage in military research
Letters from imprisoned physicist describe offers of freedom in exchange for cooperation.
By Michele Catanzaro
Nature.com 26 April 2013
Omid Kokabee, a former graduate student in physics who has been imprisoned in Iran since January 2011, has written in an open letter that he was being persecuted for refusing to cooperate with Iranian military projects. In another, private letter, he says these projects are related to nuclear applications.
“Is it a sin that I don’t want, under any circumstances, to get involved in security and military activities?” he asks. “I have just turned 30 years old after spending two years in prison, when I am eager to pursue scientific research,” he remarks. Nature received copies of the letters from Kokabee’s contacts, who asked to remain anonymous because of fear of retribution.
In the public letter (read Nature's English translation of the Kokabee letter from the original Farsi), addressed to Ali Sharifi, who Kokabee describes as his former roommate at Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, Kokabee says that he was asked to collaborate with the military before and during his detention, but always refused. The letter is dated March 2013 and marked as having been written from section 350 of Evin prison in Tehran, which houses those accused of political and security crimes.
Kokabee started a PhD programme specialising in laser physics at the Institute of Photonic Sciences in Barcelona, Spain, in 2007 and then transferred to the University of Texas in Austin in 2010. He was arrested in a Tehran airport on 30 January 2011, as he was leaving Iran after a visit. On 13 May 2012 he was sentenced to 10 years for “cooperation with a hostile government”.
As in his earlier letters, Kokabee asserts his innocence and claims that numerous violations plagued his interrogation, detention and trial. Scientific organizations — including the American Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the International Commission for Optics and the Committee of Concerned Scientists — have called for Kokabee to be freed or for him to receive a fair trial.
“Since 2005, I have been invited several times to work as a scientist and technical manager for military and intelligence projects,” the public letter reads. These instances include being offered admission to a PhD programme with full sponsorship by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), he writes. In all cases, Kokabee declined.
One of these invitations, Kokabee writes, was offered the day before his arrest, in a conversation with a member of the AEOI. A document that Kokabee’s contacts provided to Nature shows that he was received by a person at AEOI: according to the private letter by Kokabee, this person was part of the office of the high-ranking AEOI official Mohammad Ghannadi-Maragheh.
The pressure continued after his jailing, Kokabee writes, and included a visit to Kokabee from an alleged representative of Iran’s National Elites foundation, and one to his family in his hometown of Gonbad-e Qabus from government representatives. In some of these cases, Kokabee says that he was offered release from prison in exchange for cooperation.
In the private letter, Kokabee writes that in 2006 he was asked to work on a high-powered carbon dioxide laser to be used for isotope separation, for military application. He says that he was considered a good candidate for this job because of his managerial skills.
Eugene Arthurs, chief executive of the International Society for Optics and Photonics in Bellingham, Washington, says that carbon dioxide lasers are indeed considered a promising tool for isotope separation. “The particular process that looks successful is called SILEX (separation of isotopes by laser excitation) and it involves carbon dioxide laser,” he says. In September 2012, GE Hitachi received approval to develop the technology at a plant in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Although laser isotope separation could be used for energy or medical purposes, one of its potential applications is to enrich uranium for use in nuclear weapons, Arthurs says. SILEX has been described as a proliferation risk by science policy experts.
Other possible military applications of high-power carbon dioxide lasers are anti-missile weapons, military range-finding and an optical remote-sensing technology called laser-imaging detection and ranging (LIDAR), according to another expert, who asked not to be named.
Arthurs points out that Kokabee’s research on using high-intensity lasers to induce transmutation, his work as part of the optical parametric oscillators group at the Institute of Photonic Sciences and the Austin laboratory's focus on the interaction of high-power lasers and matter constitute a background “that puts him in the laser and nuclear field”. However, Arthurs adds that Kokabee was doing basic science that had no direct application to isotope separation.
The Iranian embassy in Madrid did not respond to Nature's requests for comment.
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UPDATE 9 JANUARY 2013
UT student Omid Kokabee gains more international support amid prison sentence
The Middle East Studies Association, an organization of roughly 3,000 academics from around the world, joined the more than a dozen academic organizations asking for justice for Omid Kokabee, a UT physics doctoral student. In a Jan. 3 letter the organization’s Committee on Academic Freedom asked Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, for Kokabee’s “immediate release." :
#Iranian prisoner Dr. Kamiar Alaei sits down
with The Daily Texan to recount stories of #Evin Prison:
Iranian imprisonment to be discussed after Omid Kokabee sentenced for additional charge.
A new charge has been filed against Omid Kokabee, a former UT physics doctorate student who was jailed in Iran last year, this time for teaching other inmates.
According to Kokabee’s attorney, Saeed Khalili, the Iranian government has added an additional 91 days to Kokabee’s original 10-year sentence for earning illegal money after Kokabee was paid by other inmates to teach them English, Spanish, French and physics.
URGENT UPDATE May 14, 2012
Scientist Omid Kokabi Is Sentenced To 10 Years In Prison For Refusing To Cooperate With IRGC
After fifteen months in temporary detention, University of Texas post-doctoral student in nuclear physics, Omid Kokabi was sentenced to ten years in prison on charges of cooperation with an enemy state, by Judge Salavati in a show trial labeled “Trial of those accused of cooperation with Mossad in Israel”.
On Sunday May 13, trial was held for 15 defendants charged with espionage in the court room of Judge Salavati. This trial was reported and covered in the pro government media, including Seda va Sima (TV) as the trial of Israeli spies.
Eight of these defendants were imprisoned for months prior to this trial. In the courtroom, some of the defendants accepted their charges and even thanked the Intelligence Ministry for arresting them. But Omid Kokabi refused to say anything in court, therefore was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
After receiving his Bachelor’s degree from Sharif University in Tehran, Omid Kokabi went to Europe and the United States for further education where he obtained a post-doctoral degree in nuclear physics from University of Texas in the U.S.
In recent years, he had been approached a number of times by Iran’s nuclear program and by universities affiliated with IRGC to cooperate and work with them but he had always refused their offer.
During his incarceration and interrogations they tried to force him to cooperate and work with them by putting pressure on him and his family but Kokabi refused and said it would always be an honor to serve his country through academic activities but has no interest in working on military projects.
During his fifteen months of incarceration, many domestic and foreign scientific organizations and scientists voiced their support for this 30 year old scientist and had asked for his release from prison. Included in this group were a number of Nobel Physics Prize winners who wrote a letter to Ayatollah Khamenei asking for the release of Kokabi. Also among them were international science Olympiads and winners of dozens of scientific societies including the Society of the IEEE.
Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran also voiced concern about Omid Kokabi’s situation in his report.
UPDATE February 8 , 2012
A year in jail without trial for Iranian student accused of spying
03 Feb 2012
Omid Kokabee, a physics student accused of spying by Iran, has spent one year in Evin jail in Tehran without being judged. In a hearing on 31 January the trial was postponed for at least another four months, according to sources in Tehran. The trial has already been postponed twice before, in July and October.
Full story here ;
Omid Kokabee a young, an Iranian graduate student at the University of Texas in Austin, failed to return from a visit to Iran during the winter break.
According to reports from Kaleme, Kokabee a Turkman and man of tradition, with no history of political activism, was arrested in February 2011 when he traveled to Iran to visit with his family. Upon his arrest, Kokabee was first transferred to ward 209 at Evin where he spent more than one month in solitary confinement and later moved to Evin's ward 350.
Kokabee is charged with "communicating with a hostile government" and "illegitimate/illegal earnings" .
During his studies, Kokabee had traveled to Iran on numerous occasions in order to visit with his family.
How ever on his last trip, upon leaving Iran in February of 2011, he was arrested at Khomeini International Airport and transferred to Evin prison's ward 209, a ward under the supervision of the Ministry of Intelligence, where he endured long hours of interrogation. To date, Kokabee has spent more than one month in solitary confinement and another month in prison cells with several cellmates.
During his interrogation process Kokabee was asked why the U.S. government granted him a visa and he responded that he was given a visa because he was a student.
2) We demand the prison authorities, all government forces, agents, police, and basij to stop the inhumane torture of Iranian citizens in prison in Iran!
3) We demand for Omid Kokabee to receive urgently needed medical care for the torture wounds inflicted by prison authorities.
The Immediate & Unconditional Release of Omid Kokabee petition to UN, Navi Pillay, Ban Ki Moon, Amnesty, HRW, EU members was written by Anette Meyer and is in the category Human Rights at GoPetition. Contact author here. Petition tags: omid kokabi, omid kokabee, human rights, iran, political prisoners, iran election, 25 bahaman