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Imprisoned physics student diagnosed with cancer
April 21, 2016 | Michele Irwin
APS member and physics graduate student Omid Kokabee — who is serving a ten-year sentence in Evin prison in Tehran — was recently diagnosed with kidney cancer. After enduring serious health problems in prison while being denied adequate medical care, Kokabee learned that he had developed a cancerous tumor on his right kidney. Kokabee had surgery on April 20 to remove this kidney and is now recuperating in Sina hospital in Tehran.
Since his imprisonment in January 2011, Kokabee’s health has deteriorated severely. He has suffered from kidney stones, loss of teeth, heart palpitations and shortness of breath among other ailments.
The scientific community has been appealing for Kokabee to receive proper medical attention for over a year and a half. In September 2014, then APS President Malcolm Beasley called on Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to release Kokabee from prison so that he could receive much needed medical care and be in the custody of his family. In a letter to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in February 2015, the Chief Executive Officers of APS and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) requested that Kokabee be released from prison on humanitarian grounds given his poor health.
Kokabee was arrested in Tehran in 2011 while trying to return to his graduate studies at the University of Texas at Austin after visiting his family. He was accused of “communicating with a hostile government” and “illegal earnings,” presumably in connection with his graduate study in the United States. In May 2012, he was convicted of conspiring with foreign countries and sentenced to ten years in prison. Despite Iran’s Supreme Court declaring in October 2014 that there was no legal basis for his prosecution and sentence, Kokabee has remained imprisoned.