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Since its creation in 1980, the APS Committee on International Freedom of Scientists (CIFS) has advocated for and defended the rights of scientists around the globe.
In April, APS member and physics graduate student Omid Kokabee was diagnosed with kidney cancer after years of being denied medical treatment while serving a prison term in Iran. Kokabee subsequently had surgery to remove his right kidney. In May, he was granted a medical furlough on bail to recover. It is unclear if or when he may be forced to return to prison.
In light of Kokabee’s serious health problems and the fact that he had been granted this temporary furlough, APS President Homer Neal wrote to the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in June to request that Kokabee be released from prison permanently. As President Neal wrote, “We believe that his permanent release from prison is the only guarantee of his recovery.”
Kokabee is serving a 10-year prison sentence in Evin prison. He was arrested in 2011 in Tehran while trying to return to the University of Texas at Austin, where he was a graduate student. Prior to his imprisonment, Kokabee had been asked by Iranian authorities to take part in classified military research. He repeatedly refused to do so, and consequently the Iranian government imprisoned him.
CIFS is concerned about the detention in Israel of Palestinian astrophysicist Imad al-Barghouthi, a professor at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, who was arrested at a West Bank security checkpoint in April. The charges against him were not clear, and on May 29, Barghouthi was ordered released. Although the charges were insufficient to continue his detention, it was extended nonetheless after the military asserted that he poses a significant security threat.
Given these circumstances, CIFS wrote to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to ask that all charges and evidence against Barghouthi be made public, and that he be released immediately should the evidence be insufficient to continue his detention.
Masaud Mirza Jahromi
In March, CIFS expressed concern to the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs in Bahrain about the impending deportation of Masaud Mirza Jahromi. Jahromi was the Chair of the Computer Science Department at Ahlia University in Manama, Bahrain. In 2011, he was charged with participating in political rallies, and he was subsequently convicted and imprisoned. In 2016, his citizenship was revoked and he was threatened with deportation. Unfortunately, despite protests from the scientific community, Jahromi was deported; he is currently in exile in Lebanon.
AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition
In July, APS participated in the semiannual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Human Rights Coalition, held at AAAS headquarters in Washington, D.C. The theme of the meeting was Climate Change and Human Rights. The meeting highlighted ways in which scientific research has contributed to human-rights-based policies for climate change prevention and mitigation.
The Coalition is a network of scientific associations and societies, including APS, that facilitates communication and cooperation on the topic of human rights within the scientific community, as well as between the human rights and scientific communities. Coalition members recognize that there is a connection between science and human rights and that scientists have an important role to play in the realization of human rights.
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