• Press Release

Amnesty International Presents Petitions Signed by 31 Nobel Physics Prize Laureates and Thousands of Others for Release of Iranian Physicist

October 28, 2014

(New York) – Thousands of individuals joined Amnesty International, the Committee of Concerned Scientists, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran and the American Physical Society in calling for the release of Iranian physicist Omid Kokabee. The petitions were delivered to the Iran U.N. Mission in New York by a delegation consisting of Amnesty International and the Committee of Concerned Scientists, ahead of the presentation of a report by the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, to the General Assembly.

Among the thousands of signatures on both online and paper petitions were letters to Iran’s Supreme Leader from 31 recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physics between the years 1972 and 2013.

“The Iranian government must release Omid Kokabee immediately and unconditionally ” said Elise Auerbach, a country specialist with Amnesty International USA. “He is a prisoner of conscience, and is in dire need of medical care. Even the Evin Prison doctor recommended that he be treated outside of prison.”

Kokabee was doing post-graduate work on laser optics and photonics at the University of Texas when he was arrested in 2011 while visiting his family in Iran. He was sentenced to ten years in prison after he was convicted on unsubstantiated charges of “communicating with a hostile government” and receiving “illegitimate funds” following an unfair trial in a Revolutionary Court in Tehran.

Amnesty International considers Kokabee to be a prisoner of conscience, who has been imprisoned solely due to his refusal to engage in military research for the Islamic Republic of Iran and as a result of spurious charges related to his legitimate scholarly ties with academic institutions outside of Iran. He has also been suffering from a number of serious health problems that have not been treated. AIUSA staff met with representatives of the Iran mission to advocate for his release, and for him to immediately receive adequate medical attention.

31 Nobel laureates and thousands of others around the world have signed a petition calling for Kokabee’s release. Yesterday Kokabee was awarded the 2014 Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Kokabee was previously awarded the Andrei Sakharov Prize 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.”

Iran’s Supreme Court recently vacated the 10-year sentence and has granted a retrial for his case.

The letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader calling for the release of Omid Kokabee is endorsed by the following 31 Nobel laureates in physics: Leon Neil Cooper (1972), Brian David Josephson (1973), Anthony Hewish (1974), Burton Richter (1976), Samuel Chao Chung Ting (1976), Philip W. Anderson (1977), Arno Allan Penzias (1978), Sheldon Lee Glashow (1979), James Cronin (1980), Nicolaas Bloembergen (1981), Klaus von Klitzing (1985), Jack Steinberger (1988), David. M. Lee (1996), Douglas D. Osheroff (1996), Claude Cohen-Tannoudji (1997), William D. Phillips (1997), Daniel Tsui (1998), Eric A. Cornell (2001), Wolfgang Ketterle (2001), Masatoshi Koshiba (2002), Alexei Abrikosov (2003), Anthony Leggett (2003), David Politzer (2004), David J. Gross (2004), John Hall (2005), John Mather (2006), Toshihide Maskawa (2008), Konstantin Novoselov (2010), Andre Geim (2010), David J. Wineland (2012) and Peter W. Higgs (2013).

The letter can be found at: www.amnestyusa.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/kokabeenobellaureatesletter.pdf More information on Kokabee can be found at: www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE13/052/2014/en