“It’s for people who have fought for and contributed to the human rights of scientists and human rights in general,” said Joel Lebowitz, a physicist at Rutgers University and Chair of the award’s selection committee.
Omid Kokabee, once a graduate student at the University of Texas in Austin, is now serving a ten-year prison sentence in Iran for “communicating with a hostile government” and possessing “illegal earnings” in the form of his college loans. Kokabee, who is an Iranian citizen, was picked up at the Tehran airport in January of 2011 and put on trial months later. After he was sentenced, he revealed in an open letter that the Iranian government had approached him on several occasions asking him to work for the military. He refused each time, and believes that is the real reason he was arrested.
“He is becoming, if not already, a symbol or icon of the pursuit of science free of political pressure,” said Hossein Sadeghpour of Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who nominated Kokabee for the award. He added that he nominated him because of “what he did in prison, in captivity. For not succumbing to the pressure to confess to crimes that were alleged against him, and for writing open letters which give us a window, at least partly, [into] why he was kept for refusing to participate in military research work on banned weapons.”
He is the first Sakharov Prize recipient incarcerated at the time of the announcement. His affiliation on the award reads “Evin Prison, Tehran.”
Boris Altshuler was a close friend and colleague of Andrei Sakharov at the Lebedev Institute in Moscow. The two worked together in the late 1970s advocating anti-authoritarian reforms within the Soviet Union. After Sakharov was arrested and sent into internal exile, Altshuler became his biggest advocate, organizing petitions and publicity for the scientist turned activist.
“When Sakharov had his struggle for human rights, Boris Altshuler was very much involved with that,” said Eugene Chudnovsky of the City University of New York, and a member of the selection committee. “He didn’t have the standing of Sakharov. He could easily have been sent to prison for many years.”
The Soviet government attacked Altshuler’s professional career because of his activism. For five years in the mid-eighties the physics professor was demoted to staff janitor at the Institute on the urging of the KGB. After the fall of communism, he continued to advocate for human rights in Russia. In addition, he established “The Right of a Child,” to reform and raise awareness about the country’s troubled foster care system.
Iranian says he was jailed for refusing to engage in military research
Blog/Latest News – 15th May 2012
Iranian physicist sentenced to prison: Nature news and commentNature, one of the world’s premiere scientific journals, has been following the case of imprisoned physics student Omid Kokabee in Iran. Citing the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Nature’s most recent article about Kokabee is below:Iranian physicist sentenced to prisonOmid Kokabee gets 10 years in jail for ‘communicating with a hostile government’by: Michele Catanzaro(15 May 2012) Omid Kokabee, an Iranian graduate student who has been imprisoned in Tehran for the past 15 months, was sentenced to 10 years on Sunday for allegedly conspiring with foreign countries against Iran.Judge Abolghasem Salavati of Branch 15 of Tehran’s Revolution Court — who is famous for his harsh sentences — tried 10 to 15 people in the same trial, under the collective charge of collaborating with Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad.Kokabee, a graduate student who previously worked on the physics of optics at the Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO) in Barcelona, Spain, and more recently at the University of Texas in Austin, was arrested in Tehran in February 2011 on charges of “communicating with a hostile government” and “illegal earnings” (see ‘A year in jail without trial for Iranian student accused of spying’).Close contacts of Kokabee in Iran have lamented the fact that no proof was presented at the trial to justify the sentence. Whereas other prisoners in the group declared themselves guilty in a television broadcast on the evening before the trial, the physics student has consistently denied all charges and refused to speak in court. (Faces are obscured in the broadcast, but Kokabee may be the person who appears at 24 seconds in a blue shirt.) He plans to appeal the sentence, according to his contacts.International concernSince Nature first highlighted Kokabee’s case (see ‘Missing physicist may have been jailed in Iran’), various organizations have written to the Iranian authorities asserting his innocence and asking for a fair trial — including the Committee of Concerned Scientists, a human-rights group based in New York; the American Physical Society in College Park, Maryland; and a group of four international optics organizations. His case has been included as a cause for concern in the report of Ahmed Shaheed, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran.In an open letter written while in prison, Kokabee claimed that the authorities were trying to obtain his “collaboration” through threats to him and his family; in another, he insisted that he was not a political activist, something that his friends confirm. Kokabee’s friends speculate that his frequent trips to Iran — totalling four or five in 2010 — may have aroused the suspicions of the Iranian authorities.“This will send chills through the Iranian higher-education system, particularly scholars and students who seek to enhance and expand their horizons abroad,” says Hadi Ghaemi, a physicist previously at City University in New York and director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, an association that has recently promoted aninitiative for imprisoned students.
- APS News follows the situation of Omid Kokabee by revealing an open letter addressed to the Iranian Minister of Justice, Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, that was published in the Iranian news outlet Kaleme. Please visit: http://www.aps.org/publications/apsnews/201110/apsmemberiran.cfm (added 10/20/2011).
- An Iranian graduate student at the University of Texas, Mr. Kokabee went on trial in Tehran / Iran on charges of having relations with a hostile country and receiving illegitimate funds. Mr. Kokabee is studying optics in the physics department of the University of Texas. For more information please visit USA Today: http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/story/2011-10-04/iran-us-grad-student-trial/50655836/1 (added 10/09/2011).
- Here we add CV of Omid here (added 8/4/2012)
2010- Now Physics, The University of Texas at Austin, Texas, USA
Study of Laser-plasma interaction for the generation of energetic particles
2007- Now Photonics, The Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO), Barcelona, Spain
Development of ultrafast, high-power, highly efficient and tunable Optical Parametric Oscillators
2007-2009 Photonics, Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC), Barcelona, Spain
Development of GHz repetition-rate femtosecond Optical Parametric Oscillators
2000-2005 Applied Physics and Mechanics, Sharif University of Technology, Tehran, Iran
Fluid dynamics on heat exchangers
Studying industrial and medical applications of energetic particles generated in laser-plasma interactionWork Experiences
2007-2010 The Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO), Barcelona, Spain
Laboratory Research Assistant in Ultrafast Optics Lab
Full design, construction and development of Lasers and Optical Parametric Oscillators
2006-2007 Research Institute of Petroleum Ind. (RIPI) at National Iranian Oil Co. (NIOC), Iran
Laboratory Research Assistant in Gas Spectroscopy Lab
Feasibility study of applications of lasers and UV sources to enhance catalysts in petroleum industry
2005-2006 Zener Electronics Co, Iran
Research Assistant in Electro-Optics Department
Design and testing electro-optical devices for lab and industrial applications
2003-2005 Sanate Choube Shomal, Iran
Sales officer in Sales Department in international transactions section
Research InterestsDevelopment of Tunable Lasers for Medical and Industrial Applications
Ultrafast Optical Parametric Oscillators and Amplifiers
Laser-Plasma Interaction for Particle Acceleration
Medical Applications of High Energy ParticlesOther Majors InterestsEntrepreneurship and Technlogy-based Start-ups
7. Efficient, high-power, ytterbium-fiber-laser-pumped picosecond optical parametric oscillatorO. Kokabee, A. Esteban Martin, M. Ebrahim-ZadehOptics Letters, 35(19):3210-3212 (2010)6. Optimum output coupling in optical oscillators using antiresonant ring interferometerA. Esteban-Martin, O. Kokabee and M. Ebrahim-ZadehOptics Letters, 35(16):2786-2788 (2010)5. Femtosecond nonlinear frequency conversion based on BiB3O6 (Review paper)V. Petrov, M. Ghotbi, O. Kokabee et al.
Laser & Photonics Reviews, 4(1):53-98 (2010)4. Extended-cavity, tunable, GHz-rep-rate femtosecond optical parametric oscillator pumped at 76 MHzO. Kokabee, A. Esteban Martin, M. Ebrahim-Zadeh
Optics Express, 17(18):15635-15640 (2009)3. High-harmonic-repetition-rate, 1-GHz femtosecond OPO pumped by a 76-MHz Ti:sapphire laserA. Esteban-Martin, O. Kokabee, K. Moutzouris, and M. Ebrahim-Zadeh
Optics Letters, 34(4):428-430 (2009)2. Efficient, high-repetition-rate, femtosecond optical parametric oscillator tunable in the redA. Esteban-Martin, O. Kokabee and M. Ebrahim-Zadeh
Optics Letters, 33(22):2650-2652 (2008)1. Evaluation of transmutation of 137Cs(γ,n)136Cs using ultra-intense lasersR. Sadighi-bonabi and O. Kokabee
Chinese Physics Letters, 23(6):1434-1436 (2006)Conference Contributions16. Variable output coupler for absolute power optimization of an optical oscillatorIONS North America II, Tucson, Arizona, USA, Sep 2010 (Oral)15. High Power, Highly-Efficient, Fiber-Laser Pumped Optical Parametric OscillatorICFO-OSA seminars, ICFO-The Institute of Photonic Sciences, Spain, June 2010 (Oral)14. High-Power, Fiber-Laser-Pumped Psec Optical Parametric Oscillator for the Near- to Mid-IRCLEO-2010, San Jose, USA, May 2010 (Oral)13. Efficient, High-Power, 16-GHz, PS Optical Parametric Oscillator Pumped by an 81-MHz Fiber LaserCLEO-2010, San Jose, USA, May 2010 (Oral)12. Performance and limitations of quasi-phase matching semiconductor waveguides with picosecond pulsesPhotonics North, Niagara Falls, Canada, June 201011. Fiber-Laser-Pumped High-Power, High-Rep-Rate, Ultrafast Opt. Parametric Oscillators in near-mid-IRIONS7 Conference Spring Meeting, National Univ. Ireland, Galway, Ireland, March 2010 (oral)10. Ultra-high-repetition-rate wavelength-tunable ultrashort pulse sourcesAutumn meeting, Condolider SAUUL, Bilbao, Spain, 16-17 November 2009 (oral)9. Multi-GHz-Repetition-Rate High-Power Wavelength-Tunable Fsec & Psec Sources in the Near-IRWorkshop on Sources of Super-intense Ultrashort Lasers, Porto, Portugal, Oct 2009 (Oral)8. Extended-cavity GHz-repetition-rate femtosecond optical parametric oscillator pumped at 76 MHzCLEO/Europe-EQEC, Munich, Germany, June 2009 (Oral)7. 1-GHz femtosecond optical parametric oscillator pumped by a 76-MHz Ti:sapphire LaserCLEO-2009, Baltimore, USA, June 2009 (Oral)6. Internally frequency-doubled PPLN femtosecond optical parametric oscillator tunable in the visibleCLEO-2009, Baltimore, USA, June 2009 (Oral)5. Repetition-Rate-Tunable Multi-GHz Femtosecond Optical Parametric OscillatorNATO Advanced Study Institute, Ottawa, Canada, December 20084. Tunable, High-Repetition-Rate, Femtosecond Optical Parametric Oscillator in the VisibleIEEE Photonics Global, Singapore, 8-11 December 20083. Near Infrared Optical parametric OscillatorsOptics and Photonics Conference, Kashan, Iran, August 2008 (Oral)2. Nonlinear Ultrafast Optical Source for the Visible and Near-InfraredNolineal 2008 Conference, Barcelona, Spain, 16-19 June 2008 (Oral)1. Ultra-intense Laser, a new tool for PET radionuclide production10th Iranian annual meeting of nuclear medicine, Tehran, Iran, December 2006Workshops and summer schools8. Workshop on “Endeavors of Petawatt Lasers”, June 2010, Salamanca, Spain
7. Workshop on Sources of Super-intense and Ultrashort Laser Pulses, Oct 2009, Porto, Portugal
6. NATO Advanced Study Institute 2008 on Lasers and their applications, Dec 2008, Ottawa, Canada
5. School on “Physics with Ultra-High Fields” by ELI &LMU, Oct 2008, Frauenwörth, Munich, Germany
4. Summer school on “Lasers in 21st century”, July 2008, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain
3. Workshop on “Second order nonlinear optical interactions” by Prof. Saltiel, 2009, Barcelona, Spain
2. Workshop on “New physics by intense lasers” by Prof. Luis Roso, 2008, UAB Barcelona, Spain
1. Workshop on “Time-resolved nonlinear spectroscopy” by Prof. Buckup, 2008, UPC Barcelona, SpainBusiness and Personal Competence
Intensive course on “Entrepreneurship in Photonics”, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, 2010, BelgiumThe two-week long course was in three modules including: introduction to business economics, business aspects of photonics and starting a technology ventureIntensive course on “From Science to Business”, ESADE Business School, 2010, Barcelona, SpainBy one of the most famous business schools in Europe it included: introduction to strategy, marketing for scientific entrepreneurship, the entrepreneurial process, entrepreneurial finance, team management and legal aspects for the new venturesExtensive course on “Business in Photonics”, Polytechnic University of Catalunya (UPC),2008, SpainCourse given by one of Barcelona’s venture capitalists and cooperation of several entrepreneurs in teaching it included: evaluating business ideas, analyzing the market and industry, crafting a business model, market analysis and marketing plan, pitching a venture capitalist and venture financeCertificate on “Introduction to Patent Engineering & Management”, Herrero & Asso.,2009, Spain
Certificate on “Effective Scientific Writing” from Principae,2009, Belgium
Certificate on “Effective Oral Presentations” from Principae,2009, BelgiumMemberships
OSA – Optical Society of America since 2007
IEEE – Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers since 2007
SPIE – Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers since 2007
APS – American Physical Society since 2010