Graduate student to stand trial in Iran

Brianna Pelayo

Omid Kokabee, UT graduate student and member of the American Physical Society, will go on trial today in Iran facing espionage charges.

Kokabee was arrested by Iranian authorities upon landing at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport during winter break. He was transferred to Evin Prison in northwest Tehran sometime in early February.

The government of Iran is accusing Kokabee, a first-year graduate student who had been studying optics in the UT physics department, of leaking Iranian nuclear secrets to the United States and communicating with a hostile government.

In a letter calling on the Grand Ayatollah of Iran to release Kokabee, APS’s Committee on International Freedom of Scientists said “Mr. Kokabee has no training in nuclear physics, is not politically active and is not associated with any political movement in Iran. Rather his primary concerns were his science studies in the field of optics. This area of physics has essentially no overlap with nuclear technology.”

An online petition calling for the release of Kokabee was created by the Committee for Concerned Scientists, an independent organization that seeks to achieve academic freedom as well as human rights.

UT President William Powers Jr. released a statement Monday concerning Kokabee’s trial.

“The University of Texas is deeply concerned for the fair and humane treatment of our graduate student Omid Kokabee, who has been imprisoned for more than nine months and reportedly stands trial Tuesday for espionage,” Powers said in the statement. “Although we don’t know all the facts of this case, we do know that Mr. Kokabee is serious about his graduate studies, well regarded by his colleagues and a valued member of the UT community.”