Nuclear Scientist’s Ten-Year Sentence Not Upheld by Supreme Court
The request for a retrial for the imprisoned young scientist, Omid Kokabee, has been accepted by Branch 36 of the Supreme Court, according to Kokabee’s lawyer, Saeed Khalili, who posted the update on his Facebook page. “Acceptance of the retrial request means that the top judicial authority has deemed Dr. Omid Kokabee’s [initial] verdict against the law,” he wrote.
“The path has been paved for a retrial in his case, and God willing, proving his innocence,” Khalili added. Once the request for a retrial is accepted, the new court cannot uphold the previous court’s decision, and must take the viewpoints of the Supreme Court into account in arriving at a decision about the case.
Omid Kokabee’s ten-year prison sentence is based on the crime defined in Article 508 of the Islamic Penal Code, “cooperation with enemy states.” As official authorities have confirmed that Iran is not in a state of war with any country at this time, the verdict can be overruled in the higher court, and Omid Kokabee may be released after his verdict is overturned.
On September 29, 2014, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran asked the Iranian Judiciary to immediately release Omid Kokabee, a physicist and a prisoner of conscience. Referring to Kokabee’s multiple and serious illnesses in prison, the Campaign warned that the accomplished scientist is in need of immediate medical attention. Kokabee is suffering from heart, kidney, stomach, and dental ailments which have not been properly treated in prison.
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 nuclear 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.
In an open letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on September 26, 2014, eighteen Nobel Peace Laureates asked for the “immediate and unconditional” release of Kokabee. The letter was published in the prominent scientific publication, 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. Since the letter was sent, the number of Noble Physics Laureates who have endorsed the letter on behalf of Omid Kokabee has reached twenty-eight.