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Iranian physicist free after 5 years in prison for 'contact with enemy state'

Omid Kokabee said he was arrested for refusing to work on military research projects with the Iranian intelligence agency
Kokabee before his arrest in 2011 (Iranian Labour News Agency)

An Iranian physicist has been released after spending five years in prison on charges of having contact with the United States, deemed an “enemy state” by Iran.

Omid Kokabee, 34, had been in hospital since 25 May receiving treatment to remove a cancerous kidney that had initially gone untreated by authorities at Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison.

Iranian authorities on Monday said Kokabee would not be returned to prison, according to his lawyer Saeed Khalili.

Kokabee posted on his Twitter account on Tuesday, saying simply: “Hello, World!”

“The judiciary chief approved a ruling by Branch 36 of the Tehran Appeals Court that says Omid Kokabee qualifies for conditional release and therefore he will not be returning to prison,” Khalili told the Iranian Labour News Agency.

Kokabee was arrested on 30 January 2011 at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport while travelling back to the US, where he was studying a doctorate in physics at the University of Texas.

He was sentenced to serve 10 years in prison on 14 May 2012 by the Revolutionary Court, for “contact with enemy states”.

In April 2013 Kokabee wrote an open letter from his cell at Evin prison to Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, in which he said he had been jailed for refusing to work with Iranian intelligence on a military research project.

The New York-based International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reported Kokabee was denied medical treatment for kidney stones at Evin and that he was only allowed to go to hospital once his condition had become critical.

Evin is one of the world’s most notorious prisons, with reports that torture and rape have regularly been used against inmates who are held in squalid conditions.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI) called on Iranian authorities to allow Kokabee to leave the country if he wants to continue his studies and career in the United States.

“While we welcome the decision to release Omid Kokabee after he unjustly spent more than five years in prison, his release does not compensate for the pain he endured during these years and the severely damaged health he suffered as a result of prison conditions,” ICHRI executive director Hadi Ghaemi said.