Eighteen Nobel Laureates Call for Immediate Release of Iranian Physicist
Omid Kokabee’s Health in Great Danger, Requires Immediate Medical Treatment
(September 29, 2014) The Iranian Judiciary should immediately release the Iranian physicist and prisoner of conscience, Omid Kokabee, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said today.
Kokabee has multiple serious health problems and requires immediate medical attention. The Campaign has learned that Kokabee’s health is in great danger as he is suffering from heart, kidney, stomach, and dental illnesses.
On September 26, 2014, in an open letter to Iran’s Leader, Ali Khamenei, eighteen physics Nobel laureates called for the “immediate and unconditional” release of Kokabee. The letter was published in the leading scientific journal Nature.
“Omid Kokabee is an individual who has stood by his moral principles and we urge you to exhibit compassion and allow him to return to his studies in order to fulfill his promising potential,” the Nobel laureates wrote in their letter.
Kokabee, an Iranian physicist completing his PhD at the University of Texas, Austin, is serving a ten-year sentence since his arrest in Tehran in January 2011. During his prosecution, the prosecutors charged him with “communicating with a hostile government,” and receiving “illegitimate funds” without any substantiating evidence.
In their letter, the Nobel laureates referred to charges against Kokabee as “spurious charges related to [Kokabee’s] legitimate scholarly ties with academic institutions outside of Iran.” In an open letter from Evin prison, in April 2013, Kokabee wrote his imprisonment is the result of his refusal to heed pressure by Iranian intelligence agents to collaborate on a military research project.
“Continuing Kokabee’s imprisonment cannot be justified on any grounds,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the Campaign’s Executive Director. “This is blatantly punitive behavior which the authorities in Iran must be called on.”
According to an informed source, Kokabee’s health is suffering on multiple fronts. He is suffering from heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and chest pains on the left side of his chest. These symptoms require immediate examination by a cardiologist.
Kokabee also has a history of kidney problems. He has passed kidney stones five times while in prison and is in severe pain, a condition that also requires immediate treatment. In addition, Kokabee has been suffering from stomach problems in prison and has been taking medication provided by the prison clinic, which has not been effective. As there is a history of stomach cancer in his family, which has led to the deaths of two immediate family members, he requires an immediate biopsy to ensure he is not suffering from stomach cancer. Kokabee also needs urgent dental treatment as he has already lost four teeth in prison and is in danger of losing another four if not treated soon.
The international scientific community has been campaigning for Kokabee’s release. In 2013, the American Physical Society (APS), a major organization representing some 50,000 physicists worldwide, awarded him its prestigious Sakharov prize. The recent letter by the eighteen physics Nobel laureates is part of a widespread campaign by the Committee of Concerned Scientists, the Committee on the International Freedom of Scientists of the APS, and Amnesty International.
The letter is endorsed by the following eighteen Nobel laureates in physics: Alexei Abrikosov (2003), Nicolaas Bloembergen (1981), Claude Cohen-Tannoudji (1997), Leon Cooper (1972), Andre Geim, (2010), Sheldon Glashow (1979), John Hall (2005), Anthony Hewish (1974), Wolfgang Ketterle (2001), Klaus von Klitzing (1985), Toshihide Maskawa (2008), John Mather (2006), Konstantin Novoselov (2010), Arno Penzias (1978), David Politzer (2004), Jack Steinberger (1988), Daniel Tsui(1998), and James Cronin(1980).
Earlier this year, 126 Iranian scientists studying and teaching abroad wrote a letter to President Rouhani calling for Kokabee’s release. They ended their letter by asking Rouhani, “What message will the continued long imprisonment of an Iranian student studying abroad [Kokabee] send to the other Iranian scientists who are engaged in scientific work abroad?”