Supreme Court Rejects Legality of Kokabee’s Sentencing
Lawyer Says Ordered Review Should Lead to Kokabee’s Release
Iran’s Supreme Court has explicitly rejected the legal basis of Omid Kokabee’s prosecution and sentencing. Branch 36 of Iran’s Supreme Court ordered the review of Omid Kokabee’s case, according to a ruling it issued on October 11, 2014 and recently made public by his lawyer.
“By ordering a further review, the Supreme Court has confirmed this prisoner’s innocence,” his lawyer Saeed Khalili told the Campaign, adding, “I believe that if Branch 54 of the Tehran Province Appeals Court reviews this case according to legal standards, my client shall be released.”
The Supreme Court’s ruling clearly rejects the basis of Kokabee’s sentencing. It states:
“First, as detailed and stated in the report from the International Affairs Office of the Foreign Ministry of the Islamic Republic of Iran, presently no country is in a state of hostility towards Iran, and political differences with other states do not constitute hostility. The court was mistaken in its interpretation of this expression [contact with a hostile government]. Secondly, as the individual convicted in this case has repeatedly presented in his defense, he was not in a position to have access to classified and confidential information, so that he could pass it on to a hostile government. Scientific discussions, exchanging ideas, delivering important academic topics in academic conferences, and receiving medals or awards or benefits for academic and scholastic achievements is not considered a crime. Thirdly, in cases where the suspect’s confessions comprise the evidence proving the crime, his denial can refute that evidence, unless the case contains [other incriminating] evidence and documents against his denial, which was not the case here. Therefore, as the Court has made an error in understanding and interpreting Article 508 of the Islamic Penal Code, approved in 1980, and determined an inappropriate punishment, based on Item 6 of Article 272 of the Criminal Procedure Code, while prescribing further review, in observance of Articles 12 and 18 of the Islamic Penal Code approved in 2013, the case is forwarded to a lateral court for further review.”
“Omid was sentenced to 10 years in prison based on Article 508 of the Islamic Penal Code on charges of contact with hostile governments. However, according to statements by official state institutions, such a charge does not exist, as Iran is not in a state of hostility with any other country,” Kokabee’s lawyer said.
Omid Kokabee, 33, was a post-doctoral Nuclear Physics student at the University of Texas at Austin at the time of his arrest on January 30, 2011, at Tehran’s International Airport. He was about to leave the country after visiting family in Iran. He was kept in solitary confinement for over a month during his 15-month pre-trial detention, and his family and lawyer were not allowed access to him.
On May 14, 2012, he was sentenced to ten years in prison by Judge Salavati for “contact with enemy states” and other falsified charges. Kokabee was one of thirteen individuals who were accused of espionage charges during the show trial. He refused to offer any defense during the trial. Iranian Judiciary officials have so far been unable to provide any evidence for the charges for which they prosecuted and convicted the physicist. In an open letter from Evin Prison, Kokabee wrote in 2013 that his arrest followed his refusal to cooperate with security agents on a military research project.
Omid Kokabee has been inside Evin Prison and denied furlough since 2011. He suffers from heart palpitation, asthma, and kidney disease, but despite his repeated requests for transfer to a hospital, permission for his medical care outside the prison has been denied by Judiciary officials.
“Continuing Kokabee’s imprisonment cannot be justified on any grounds,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the Campaign’s Executive Director, on September 29, 2014. “This is blatantly punitive behavior which the authorities in Iran must be called on.”
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. Thirty-one physics Nobel laureates have since added their name to the letter.