Scientist Omid Kokabee has been temporarily released from prison, IranWire has learned.
The physicist has been held in Tehran's Evin Prison for more than five years, charged with “communicating with a hostile government” and “illegal earnings.” According to Nature magazine, prison authorities granted him temporary medical leave after Kokabee's friends posted bail of around $165,000. He is reported to be suffering from kidney cancer and underwent surgery to remove his right kidney on April 20. His medical furlough is expected to last from between one to three months.
Kokabee was arrested in January 2011 after trying to board a flight to the United States, where he had been working for many years. He had been in Iran to visit family prior to his arrest. In addition to the formal charges against him, media and Kokabee's colleagues believe the Iranian authorities jailed him as punishment for refusing to work on Iran’s nuclear program.
"This is a great development," said Eugene Chudnovksy, professor in Physics and Astronomy at the City University of New York and co-chair of the Committee of Concerned Scientists, which has campaigned for Kokabee's release, including coordinating a letter to the supreme leader on behalf of 33 Nobel Physics Prize laureates. "I'm not sure I can call it happy ending when an innocent young man gets temporarily out of prison after spending five years of his life in confinement and losing his kidney, but I hope that this is the first step towards his unconditional release."
In September 2015, prison guards barred Kokabee’s family from visiting him, and denied him reading materials and a reading light after international campaign groups and IranWire reported on prison conditions and his deteriorating health.