APS News

APS Collecting Signatures to Free Kokabee

Attendees at the APS April Meeting are asked to sign petition to free Omid Kokabee

April 2, 2014

APS is planning for a push at the April Meeting to petition for and raise awareness about imprisoned Iranian physicist Omid Kokabee. At the meeting, members of APS's Office of International Affairs and the Committee on the International Freedom of Scientists will have a dedicated table for collecting signatures and sharing information about Kokabee.

"It's a way to show support," said Michele Irwin, the international programs administrator at APS.

Kokabee, an Iranian citizen studying laser physics at the University of Texas at Austin, was arrested at Tehran's international airport in January 2011 while visiting his family over winter break. He was charged with "communicating with a hostile foreign government" and held in solitary confinement for over a month.  After being jailed for 15 months, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison after a trial in which he was not allowed to testify or speak to a lawyer.

After a year of imprisonment, Kokabee released an open letter stating that he was being held because of his refusal to assist the Iranian government in any military projects. Kokabee was one of the co-recipients of APS's 2014 Sakharov Prize, which recognizes scientists for their commitment to upholding human rights.

The website FreeOmid.org organized this latest petition in January 2014 to raise awareness and affect his release.

"They started a petition to get Omid freed and asked APS, Amnesty International, the Committee of Concerned Scientists, and an organization called United 4 Iran to sponsor the petition," Irwin said. "We thought this could be a good opportunity to promote, inform, and educate APS attendees about Omid's case."

Irwin said that the group's plan is to get about 1,000 signatures and send it to the supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei.

The organizers hope that the petition will help raise awareness in the physics community about what's happened to Kokabee.

"I don't think a lot of people really know a lot about Kokabee and his situation," Irwin said.

People can learn more and sign the petition at FreeOmid.org.