Kokabee to remain imprisoned in Iran for at least another year

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Physics graduate student Omid Kokabee will remain illegally imprisoned in Iran under espionage charges for at least another year with no court hearing or release date in sight, said Eugene Chudnovsky, a physics professor at Herbert H. Lehman College.

Kokabee was imprisoned while on a visit to his native Iran in January 2011 under charges of leaking Iranian nuclear secrets to the United States. He pleaded not guilty to the charges on Oct. 4, 2011, but was not allowed to testify in court and simply exchanged a written letter with the judge. After the hearing, Kokabee was sent directly back to prison and the judge told his defense to build a better case while awaiting a new hearing that would be scheduled at the judge’s will.

Last month, Kokabee’s second hearing was rescheduled for Jan. 31, 2012 but was inexplicably cancelled. Chudnovsky said communication barriers and tight security measures in Iran make receiving updated news about Kokabee difficult.

“The hearing scheduled for Jan. 31 was cancelled at the last minute by the judge without establishing a new hearing date, which is against the law in Iran,” Chudnovsky wrote in an email interview with The Daily Texan. Chudnovsky said Kokabee has been in prison for an entire year.

Chudnovsky said he received news about the trial, as well as Kokabee’s second letter to Ayatollah Larijani, head of the Islamic Republic judiciary. He said the letter is a poor translation from Farsi, but the message is clear.

The allegations, with respect to requests and practice from the authority, are completely incompatible and inconsistent with any logic and common sense, Kokabee wrote in the translated letter.

“For someone who does not have any activity outside the University and the academic world and [is] not familiar with world politics, what sense does it associate,” said Kokabee in the translated letter. “And what purpose lies behind the accusations and pressures?”

In the letter, Kokabee said he refused to put up with threats and a disregard for the country’s laws and regulations. Kokabee demanded in the letter the basic rights of a prisoner and conditions for a reasonable and impartial court.

“As now as a natural reaction to a prisoner who has insulted his dignity and basic human rights, I declare that after this I’m not willing to go to court and defend myself, if you forced me to take court,” said Kokabee in the translated letter. “I will not participate in humiliating court and without jurisdiction.”

Printed on Thursday, February 2, 2012 as: Omid Kokabee stuck in Iran prison without next trial date