Family of Jailed Iranian Physicist Omid Kokabee Ask for His Release due to Cancer

Updated: May 1, 2019

Iranian physicist Omid Kokabee, who has been imprisoned in Tehran since 2011, is suffering from life-threatening kidney cancer, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reported Monday.


Kokabee, 34, was arrested while visiting Iran from the United States, where he was studying physics at the University of Texas. He was charged with communicating with a hostile government and receiving illegitimate funds.


His family has asked for his immediate release due to his severe health condition.


"The prison doctors were prescribing painkiller without even examining him," an informed source said. "It was only last week that Omid was diagnosed with cancer and now the cancerous tumor has spread all over his right kidney."


Kokabee has said he had been tortured in prison, both physically and mentally, and forced to make confessions.


In letters from Evin Prison in 2011 and 2013, Kokabee wrote that his imprisonment was the result of his refusal to heed pressure by Iranian government to collaborate on a secret research project, which likely refers to Iran's nuclear program.


"My only sin is that I am following a rare field of study and no one in Iran has my expertise," wrote Kokabee, who has worked in laser technology and atomic physics.


Iran has been seeking to enrich uranium by laser as it has the potential to reduce the cost and also to make the enrichment facility far smaller. In an accord with world powers signed last July, Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear program in return for lifting economic sanctions.


Kokabee was awarded the Andrei Sakharov Prize in 2013 from the American Physical Society for "his courage in refusing to use his physics knowledge to work on projects that he deemed harmful to humanity, in the face of extreme physical and psychological pressure."


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