UT graduate student faces trial Iran

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UT physics graduate student Omid Kokabee  plead not guilty to communicating with a hostile government and receiving illegitimate funds Tuesday at his trial in Iran. Reports relayed to Eugene Chudnovsky, physics professor and member of the American Physics Society, predicted a grim outlook for his trial.

“The lawyer said that he was not very optimistic because the punishments handed down in court today were quite harsh,” Chudnovsky said.

Kokabee was not permitted to defend himself in court other than by written statement.

“According to an email from his lawyer, Kokabee was not even allowed to speak in court,” Chudnovsky said. “He was only allowed to submit answers in writing. After all these months he has not been allowed to talk to his lawyer.”

Chudnovsky said this was the first case of a student being detained for obtaining a United States visa.

“They do have a history of detaining scientists,” Chudnovsky said. “This is the first time a student visa has been considered as associating with a hostile government however. There are many Iranian students who are exactly in the same situation and are scared.”

John Keto, director of the UT physics graduate program said Kokabee’s Iranian classmates now fear going home to Iran.

“Most are now concerned about travel back to Iran, even for a visit,” Keto said.

People in the physics department are working delicately with scientific organizations to help advocate for Kokabee’s release.

“A serious outcry from the US may have been interpreted by the Iranian courts as interference  and evidence confirming the allegations of Omid’s working with the US government.” Keto said.  “This was why for the first four months Omid’s family requested that we keep our knowledge of the situation confidential.”