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By Michael Lucibella
In January, Boris Altshuler, who won the Sakharov Prize along with Kokabee, sent an open letter to Russian president Vladimir Putin calling on him to use his influence with Iran to help free the imprisoned scientist. In February, APS President Malcolm Beasley sent a similar letter to President Putin.
A native of Iran, Kokabee was arrested by Iranian security forces at the Tehran airport while waiting to board a flight back to the United States, where he was studying for his doctoral degree. Since then he has been confined to Tehran’s Evin Prison, which houses many of Iran’s political prisoners.
According to a recent interview with Kokabee’s mother, prison officials don’t allow him to receive scientific papers, but that hasn’t stopped him from continuing his research. Three local scientific conferences in Iran accepted papers he wrote while behind bars and invited him to present. He was unable to secure permission from the prison to attend.
In addition to writing papers, Kokabee also tutors other inmates in physics, mechanics, and civil engineering. However, prison officials have tacked on an additional 91 days to his sentence because of this. He translated a history of the Middle East and is in the process of translating a text on physics as well.
His family reports that since the beginning of his incarceration, his health started deteriorating. He’s lost weight and started suffering from kidney stones and other digestive and dental issues.
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