Updated: Mar 12, 2022
The life of Iranian physicist and political prisoner Omid Kokabee, who recently had surgery to remove a cancerous kidney, will be put in grave danger if he is returned to prison in Iran, Amnesty International warns.
Kokabee was diagnosed with advanced kidney cancer after five years of medical neglect in prison. He had his right kidney removed on April 22.
“Omid Kokabee had complained of kidney and stomach pain for five years in prison but was continually denied specialized medical treatment, including diagnostic testing,” Amnesty International said in an Urgent Action appeal highlighting his case. “He was finally allowed to have a sonogram exam on November 26, 2015 in Taleghani Hospital in Tehran, which revealed a large tumour in his right kidney. Despite his doctors ordering a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan to ascertain the nature of the tumour, the Prosecutor General of Tehran did not approve the test until 8 April 2016, after which Omid Kokabee was diagnosed with Renal Cell Carcinoma (kidney cancer).”
He is currently recovering in Sina University Hospital.
“His treatment, however, could be disrupted any time, as he remains at risk of being returned to prison to serve the remainder of his sentence,” the human rights group said.
“Omid Kokabee had been waiting years to be referred to a hospital with a urology department for specialized testing but the authorities had repeatedly refused the transfer. They had also refused all his requests for medical leave. Omid Kokabee has passed kidney stones and found blood in his urine on several occasions since the start of his imprisonment. Consequently, he had repeatedly gone to the prison clinic complaining of kidney and stomach pain but the prison doctors never adequately examined him and kept prescribing him painkillers instead. Had he been provided with timely adequate medical care, including diagnostic testing, his kidney cancer may have been detected at an earlier stage and treated before advancing further.”
Kokabee suffers from a number of other health problems, including heart palpitations, shortness of breath, pain and pressure in his chest, and migratory joint pain. He has additionally complained about severe tooth pain and has lost four teeth since his imprisonment, and he needs dental work on another four. He also requires tests for his heart palpitations, which can only be done outside the prison.
Kokabee’s health conditions have been exacerbated by the poor conditions in Section 7 of Tehran’s Evin Prison where he is held.
“Omid Kokabee is a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned for spurious charges arising solely from his refusal to work on military projects in Iran and his legitimate scholastic ties with academic institutions outside of Iran,” Amnesty said. “[He] had been pursuing post-doctoral studies in the USA when he was arrested in January 2011 upon his return to Iran to visit his family. He was held in solitary confinement for 15 months and was subjected to prolonged interrogations, and pressured to make ‘confessions’. In May 2012, after an unfair trial in a Revolutionary Court at which no evidence was presented against him, Omid Kokabee was sentenced to 10 years in prison for having ‘connections with a hostile government.’"
In an open letter written from prison in April 2013, Kokabee said, “During interrogations, which were conducted in solitary confinement, while all my communication with my family and the outside world was cut off, and while I was constantly being put under pressure and threats by receiving news about the horrible physical and mental state of my family, I was asked again and again to write up various versions of my personal history after 2005.”