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Jailed Iranian physicist loses appeal against 10-year sentence

Omid Kokabee has been imprisoned in Iran since February 2011.

Omid Kokabee

Posted on behalf of Michele Catanzaro.

Tehran’s court of appeal confirmed last week the 10-year sentence imposed on Omid Kokabee, a physics PhD student who has been in prison in Iran since February 2011.

Kokabee is an Iranian student affiliated with the Institute of Photonic Sciences in Spain and the University of Texas at Austin. In February 2011 he was arrested while leaving Tehran after a visit to his family and accused of communicating with a hostile government and illegal earnings. In May he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Kokabee has denied all charges. His lawyer, Saeed Khalili, says that he has not been allowed to discuss the case with his client, and the appeal court’s response to his 10-page submission consisted of just a few sentences. Several scientific organizations have written open letters and launched petitions asking for a fair trial for Kokabee or asserting his innocence.

However, the decision of branch 36 of Tehran’s appeal court means that the file is closed as far as the Iranian courts are concerned, according to Arash Alaei, a doctor who was jailed in Iran until 2011. “We believe that Kokabee is innocent, so we will do all we can to use other legal methods to prove his innocence,” says Khalili.

While waiting for the appeal to be heard, several scientific organizations joined those expressing support for Kokabee. These include the American Society of Photobiology, the Spanish Thematic Cooperative Network PRISMA and the University of Oslo, but the University of Texas and the Institute of Photonic Sciences, where Kokabee was working, have not issued official support documents. Friends and colleagues of Kokabee have also set up an online campaign open to the public called We are all Omid.


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