Another five winners of the Nobel Prize in physics have signed a letter to the Supreme Leader calling on him to free Omid Kokabee, the 32-year-old physicist believed imprisoned for refusing to work on Iran’s nuclear program.
Eighteen had signed when the letter was published in the September 26 issue of the scientific journal Nature. Another eight had joined in signing when the Iran Times published the list of signers in the October 10 issue. Now five more have signed.
The 31 signers are among the physicists who have been honored with the Nobel Prize over the last 42 years.
Kokabee, a member of the Turkoman minority, was arrested January 30, 2011, as he was preparing to board a flight to return to his doctoral studies in Texas. He has now been in jail more than 3 1/2 years.
In the letter to Ali Kha-menehi, the Nobel laureates write: “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.”
Kokabee is serving a 10-year sentence. During his prosecution, the prosecutors charged him with “communicating with a hostile government,” which remained unnamed but is assumed to mean the United States. He was also charged with receiving “illegitimate funds,” which is assumed to refer to his scholarship from the University of Texas at Austin.
In their letter, the Nobel laureates refer to the accusations against Kokabee as “spurious charges related to [Kokabee’s] legitimate scholarly ties with academic institutions outside of Iran.”
In an open letter sent from Evin prison in April 2013, Kokabee wrote his imprisonment is the result of his refusal to heed pressure by Iranian intelligence agents to collaborate on a military research project.
The international scientific community has been campaigning remarkably long and strongly for Kokabee’s release. In 2013, the American Physical Society (APS), a major organization representing some 50,000 physicists worldwide, awarded him its Sakharov prize. The recent letter by the Nobel laureates is part of a widespread campaign by the APS, Committee of Concerned Scientists and Amnesty International.
The additional Nobel winners who have signed on in the last three weeks are: Samuel Chao Chung Ting (1976), Philip W. Anderson (1977), David M. Lee (1996), Masatoshi Koshiba (2002) and Anthony Leggett (2003).