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Iranian Physics Student From UT Gets 10 Years In Jail For Spying 253

Posted by Soulskill
from the darn-it-we-just-got-canada-taken-care-of dept.
scibri writes "Omid Kokabee, a laser physics graduate student from the University of Texas who has been imprisoned in Tehran for the past 15 months, was sentenced to 10 years in jail on Sunday for allegedly conspiring with foreign countries against Iran. Kokabee was arrested in February 2011 while on a trip home, and charged with 'communicating with a hostile government' (i.e. Israel) and 'illegal earnings.' He has consistently denied the charges, and refused to speak at his trial, where no evidence against him was presented. Several international science groups, including the American Physical Society, have spoken up in his defense, and an online petition has been set up in support."
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Iranian Physics Student From UT Gets 10 Years In Jail For Spying

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  • Nothing new here (Score:5, Insightful)

    by s.petry (762400) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @04:29PM (#40009545)

    Sadly, this is a very common theme with the Iranian Government. Usually this is to get the person on board with them. They get out when they are on-board, and often family members are jailed to be sure that they stay on-board.

    As long as crap is in power, crap like this happens. How many brilliant people did Stalin and Hitler kill? So many that we have no way of knowing.

    • by Bigby (659157) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @04:31PM (#40009571)

      It sounds like the trial-less imprisonment here in the US. He's a "terrorist" and doesn't deserve a (fair) trial.

      • by artor3 (1344997) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @04:38PM (#40009681)

        I was wondering how long it would be before some sheltered fool claimed America was just as bad.

        • Re:Nothing new here (Score:4, Informative)

          by girlintraining (1395911) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @04:46PM (#40009771)

          I was wondering how long it would be before some sheltered fool claimed America was just as bad.

          Actually [wordpress.com], it [wordpress.com] is [motherboard.tv] somewhat [aljunnah.com] worse [thepeoplesvoice.org].

          • by swb (14022)

            You're right, our version of "honor killing" is much worse here. We kill the young woman involved and a couple of puppies and a pony, too, for good measure. Can't let those Persians out-honor-killing us.

            • by Uberbah (647458)

              Non-response. He's talking legal system, you're talking vigilantes. And those vigilantes aren't violating their Bill of Rights left and right.

              So, got any relevant comparisons to make?

              • by zlives (2009072)

                +1
                though a semi working sewer/legal system is much better than an open gutter; also allows us to say our shit don't stink.

          • by s.petry (762400)

            Sorry, but of all the examples you could have possibly given this is the worst. Was Abu-ghraib right? Don't even be foolish enough to ask. Hell shooting someone in the face is not right, neither is having someone else try to shoot you in the face. Abu-Ghraib is a very unfortunate side effect of war.

            Before you say "but but but but" I'll ask you to volunteer for the Military and go see for yourself. Watch a few of your friends die and get hit by a bullet or two. Lets see how you react when you capture so

            • by girlintraining (1395911) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @09:31PM (#40012355)

              Before you say "but but but but" I'll ask you to volunteer for the Military and go see for yourself.

              Couldn't. Gay. Curiously, people who chant "death to america!" are a bit more accepting regarding military service, though it usually ends with a bang.

              Watch a few of your friends die and get hit by a bullet or two.

              I didn't have to serve in the military to see that. I've been shot myself... twice.

              Lets see how you react when you capture someone and they spit in your face and tell you they will hunt down your whole family and kill them.

              I can't say I ever captured someone, but I've had people spit in my face and tell me they will hunt down my whole family and kill them. Again, gay. Also, small town.

              Try helping out someone asking for help and watching them kill a few innocents, and then yell "he did it!".

              Okay, at this point, I have to ask... what the fuck are you getting at? Is your justification here that two wrongs make a right? That it's okay to kill people, as long as it's for the right reasons? Collateral damage? Where are you going with this... or are you just rattling off the many inhumane things human beings are capable of when told by an authority to do them?

              We torture and kill innocent people; and it's not just foreigners, it's our own citizens. Our fear mongering leaders want show trials for their re-election so badly they throw people to the wolves. The FBI is busy manufacturing terrorists just so they can claim credit for taking them down. And you're acting like we shouldn't be ashamed? That we should just accept it? Are you truly that jaded?

              But in a war, when you have your ass on the line 24/7/365 and you watch people die..

              You don't kill others to protect your way of life, only to come home and kill more people who's crime is living that way of life.

              There are countless Occupy people that have been arrested and detained without bail or trial for weeks.

              Yes, I know. I was there. And no bail or trial for a couple weeks is not the same thing as never having a trial, being disappeared, having the government deny your family, friends, or anyone access to you, never seeing a lawyer, permanently. That's what we've legalized in the past few years; and it goes against everything we have sent generations of young men overseas to die for.

              We should be ashamed.

        • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @04:54PM (#40009877)

          I believe you're mistaken in calling the parent a "sheltered fool".

          We've suspended Habeus Corpus for anyone branded a terrorist. We've suspended the 4th Amendment any time the NSA wants to wiretap all phone traffic. We torture people. We have secret evidence in trials, which defense attorneys can't see. And National Security Letters can make it a crime to even talk about what the government is up to, even if it's illegal.

          So we have a government capable of *exactly* what Iran did to this guy.

          And if you're arguing that America isn't as bad because we don't to it as often, there are two points to be made. First, Bigby never talked about how the relative frequency of this kind of trial in the U.S. vs. Iran; just that the U.S. has done these things at least once in recent history. Secondly, given that our our handling of alleged terrorism is secret, none of us has real information on how often the U.S. conducts "trials" of the sort Iran did with this guy.

        • by Marillion (33728)
          Of course there are horrible oppressive regimes out there. The depravity they inflict upon their citizens is an abomination to basic human dignities. Iran is a notable and relevant example of such a regime. While the US is scarcely anywhere near as bad as Iran or any of a dozen or more similar regimes, the point that's trying to be made is that liberties and freedoms basic human dignities have been steadily eroding in the name of defending the US from terrorism. Also, there is no sense that anyone in po
          • by zlives (2009072)

            +1
            it seems that the general public is apathetic to this erosion, which just makes it worse.

        • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @05:41PM (#40010503)

          There are a lot of very narcissistic people on Slashdot and any discussion that isn't about America they seem to need to find a way to redirect it to the US as soon as they can. I can never be a discussion about civil rights in another nation, they have to try and steer the debate right back around to America so they can do more whining and make more things about themselves.

          It is extremely annoying, and precisely as expected for this site.

          • by chrb (1083577)

            1) There are a lot of U.S. citizens on Slashdot, so it is hardly surprising that those people are going to discuss stories from a U.S. perspective, making it sometimes U.S. centric.

            2) I think that, rather than being narcissistic, this is simply a case of "People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones." [wiktionary.org] When your elected representatives, and certain media elements, endorse assassination without trial, imprisonment without trial, and torture without trial, then they lose the moral authority to crit

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            It sounds like the trial-less imprisonment here in the US. He's a "terrorist" and doesn't deserve a (fair) trial.

            It sounds like the trial-less imprisonment here in Russia. He's a "terrorist" and doesn't deserve a (fair) trial.

            It sounds like the trial-less imprisonment here in China. He's a "terrorist" and doesn't deserve a (fair) trial.

            It sounds like the trial-less imprisonment here in the DRC. He's a "terrorist" and doesn't deserve a (fair) trial.

            It sounds like the trial-less imprisonment here
          • Narcissism is in genaral about one self, not about the USA, so what does narcissism have to do with it? Also, how bad is it to compare something that happens in one country that is viewed as "evil" by the majority of people on this site to something that happens in another country that is in fact home to a very large part of the visitors of this website? Even if just to put something in perspective to what happens "back home" and how evil or non evil the other country, or "home" is when you look at the fact
      • by gl4ss (559668)

        in usa you don't get a mock trial.. ok, technically in cuba you don't get a mock trial if you're hold by the u.s authorities.

        in iran, they don't need evidence, just that the other 10-15 guys(article wasn't more specific) confess after a beating.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          In the US you don't need evidence either. The government can simply tell the courts hey its a national security issue trust us. And that's it. The poor guy gets to rot in prison for undetermined time for completely made up charges.
          Now in Europe on the other hand the courts can't judge you based on non disclosed evidence. Precisely to avoid the arbitrariness that underlies the modern US judicial system. Funny to think that european citizens are more protected from their govenments than US citenzens are from

      • by Hatta (162192)

        That, or the imprisonment of completely harmless individuals for completely harmless acts, after giving them a fair trial at a jury of their peers. The US likes to act like it's better than Iran, but it engages in persecution of its own people too.

    • Here's a tip for all Iranians outside Iran. Don't go back. No matter how much you miss the kin and pine for the fjords, if you can manage it, don't go back.

  • Is Iran crazy? (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by crazyjj (2598719) *

    He's the last nuclear physicist in the country that Mossad hasn't killed, and they're sending him to prison?!?

    • Laser physicist. Not a lot of use in making nuclear weapons. If they'd arrested an actual nuclear physicist, I'd consider it plausible they have a secret lab where enslaved scientists are forced to work on weapons research. But I imagine the TSA is already watching for any American nuclear physicists who might wish to go to Iran and is ready to have them turned back at the airport.
    • by gl4ss (559668)

      well, he had a life outside iran too and that he wasn't dead is clear evidence that he must be working with mossad.

      maybe mossad should target the mock trial judges though? or the iranian resistance should(it exists.. they carry out the bike bombings etc inside iran).

    • Maybe thats the only way they can protect him from Mossad under tight security. Who knows what happens behind the walls of the prison.
    • by Genda (560240)

      No He's a Laser Physicist... Iran wants to build a "Star Wars Defense System"!

      So if you check out the "Human Rights Watch" [hrw.org] you'll find that Iran is a stinking cesspool in the area of human rights and you simply can't be surprised at how unfair or nasty they are and on how little provocation they will burn you down and pee on the ashes. If you are LGBT or friendly to such, an "Intellectual or Social Scientist", an unhappy student, protester of any type, woman, child, religious/racial/or social minority, you

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @04:32PM (#40009597)

    Oh shit. A fucking online petition. Those Iranian guys a really wishing that they hadn't fucked with that grad student.

    • by crazyjj (2598719) *

      Hey, they're also totally going to hold a sit-in and bake sale as soon as the Fall semester starts.

    • by jonadab (583620)
      Indeed. I have some difficulty imagining that an online petition signed by a bunch of physics students and professors -- most of whom are foreigners -- could convince an elected, first-world government to take (or not take) any particular action. The idea that it might matter to the government of Iran is patently absurd.
      • by Kittenman (971447)
        Good source of potential emails for spammers though, huh?

        "Greetings ; I noticed that you care about the rights of fellow men. Good for you. My husband, Dr Nodal Momorani was imprisoned and killed, and I am trying to distribute his $30 million ...." etc etc..

        No disrespect to the student.
      • Yet that is the whole premise of modern 'protests'. Sign a meaningless petition. "Like" a meaningless blurb or post a meaningless forward on Facebook. Send an "outraged" tweet or two. Get the bumper sticker. Get the T-shirt... Go on with your life in the sure and smug knowledge that you've made a difference.

        Oh, and don't forget - declare victory quickly before the next meme comes along.

  • by JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @04:43PM (#40009731)

    He has consistently denied the charges, and refused to speak at his trial, where no evidence against him was presented.

    You're guilty because we say so.

    • by Blindman (36862)
      At least you can't accuse them of fabricating evidence.
    • Well, I don't know about legal practice in Iran, maybe that's how it is? You're accused, your prosecutor thinks you did it and if you don't defend yourself, it means you agree?

      Not as implausible as it may sound, I mean, it's something similar here in civil court. You don't show up, you're losing by default.

      • by Blindman (36862)
        Even in the face of no opposition, a Plaintiff doesn't automatically win. The Plaintiff still has the burden of proving entitlement to a favorable judgment. Unlike a forfeit in sports, you still have to play the game in Court.
  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@gmFREEBSDail.com minus bsd> on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @04:44PM (#40009743) Journal

    and refused to speak at his trial

    From the Nature article

    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.

    Hardly "his" trial now, wasn't it? From the sound of it, it was just 10-15 students they all accused of the same thing with some of them (like Sina Zahiri [iranian.com]) confessing in order to reduce their sentences. Of course, Zahiri's accusation is contact with Mojahedin-e Khalgh Organization (completely unrelated to the Mossad). So now that Zahiri has confessed, Iran has "evidence" that they can now use to justify counter attacks or assassinations or arrests or whatever.

    I'm sure in Kokabee's case, he'd have a lighter sentence if he just said that Israel is doing all the stuff of which they accuse him. Because then Iran has evidence to start some international shit (by the way, I am by no means claiming Israel has no such operations inside Iran).

    • It's more likely he gets 10 yrs for not agreeing to work on Iran's nuke program when asked...and for asking to return to the US to finish his studies. Thus he must be a spy.

    • by chrb (1083577)

      From the sound of it, it was just 10-15 students they all accused of the same thing

      I haven't seen a report saying that they are students. But, regardless, how do we actually know they are innocent? There have been numerous targeted bombings and assassinations of Iranian scientists and academics. [nature.com] Some organised "terrorist" group has murdered these people, and others have supplied that group with information, weapons, money, safehouses etc. If this were happening in the U.S. - if American scientists and academics were being murdered by a foreign terrorist group - then Americans would be dem

  • Personally, I wouldn't be real surprised. Realize that Israel does actively spy, and even spies on the US. http://af.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idAFTRE78645B20110907 [reuters.com] The US actively watches for Israeli spies. I'm not sure why the rush to assume the guy's innocent. Even tyrannical dictators usually have their reasons. I doubt the arrest was terribly politically expedient and I don't know that the guy has anything Iran needs. The evidence may not be presented the way we're accustomed to in the US an
    • by crazyjj (2598719) *

      Well, at least Mossad is getting smarter than trying to send 3 jewish students into Iran with a bunch of surveillance equipment, trying to claim they're on a fucking Iraqi hiking trip [wikipedia.org].

      • by doston (2372830)

        Well, at least Mossad is getting smarter than trying to send 3 jewish students into Iran with a bunch of surveillance equipment, trying to claim they're on a fucking Iraqi hiking trip [wikipedia.org].

        That's the fucking Iraqi hiking trip I was trying to remember! Yeah, those people were obviously guilty, even from the western slanted news stories. I'm not as sure about this student, but I'd be willing to bet he was spying for Israel. If I had to bet, I'd be he was spying. On the hikers, I would have willingly bet everything I own that they were spying.

        • by crazyjj (2598719) *

          You think they would have at least given them a decent cover story. Three arabic-speaking jews go from Syria to Iraq, via Israel. Their relatives are all closely tied to Israel. They show up on the Iranian border with spy gear, claiming they were going on a "nature hike" in one of the most dangerous countries in the world.

          Jesus, they may as well have been wearing "I'm a spy!" t-shirts. Pretty fucking cruel of Mossad to even allow that.

  • I know several Iranians, and none of them have been home in 30 years. They're not stupid enough to get caught up in the political tug of war between the US and Iran.

  • ... nevermind, I'm too late.
  • by couchslug (175151) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @05:14PM (#40010155)

    That simple. Iranians (well, except the MEK) aren't dedicated enough for a protracted violent struggle, so their government will remain as it is.

    The Viet Minh and later Viet Cong were willing to die, by the hundreds of thousands, to take power in their country. The Taliban have demonstrated the same will to fight over decades.

    Either be willing to fight as a revolutionary or get the fuck out before Serious People eat you. The Mullonazis are Serious People. If you aren't willing to slaughter them, you don't really oppose them.

    • by Dan667 (564390)
      if you act the same as your enemies you are no better than they are.
      • by couchslug (175151)

        So you renounce all war and revolution which involves violence? Good luck with that.

        Pacifism wouldn't have freed the US from Britain, freed the slaves in the US Civil War, freed Europe from Hitler, or freed much of Asia from Hirohitos minions.

        Also, it is better to be victor than vanquished. Not conforming to some arbitrary moral standard has no inherent cost. Being on the LOSING SIDE of a violent conflict demonstrably does.

      • by Mal-2 (675116)

        if you act the same as your enemies you are no better than they are.

        Sometimes there is no "better", only dead or alive.

  • by petsounds (593538) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @05:22PM (#40010249)

    It's difficult to glean from the articles, but it seems Kokabee is not an American citizen, but an Iranian citizen who was attending an American graduate school. The act of going to an American school was the first risky move, both to his own safety but that of his family. The Iranian government knew he was attending an American school and simply waited for the appropriate time to use him as a pawn. Did he really think he was going to be able to associate himself with America and not end up being used for propaganda purposes by the Iranian government? He's a young kid so maybe he didn't think about it, but his parents should have.

    I do sympathize that he felt he had to risk everything in order to get a good education in the field of his choice, but he put himself in a very risky position.

  • If you're not in Iran, stay out. Iran is run by paranoid idiots and no one is safe there.

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness. -- John Muir

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