Iranian physicist on trial for espionage

Here is some more bad news buried under an avalanche of phone hacking fallout and a spectacularly imploding British ruling class…

Iranian physicist Omid Kokabee has just gone on trial, charged with “communicating with a hostile government” (i.e., working for the CIA). Only Kokabee is not some senior and distinguished nuclear expert, but rather a doctoral student at the University of Texas at Austin, who last year began his PhD studies, taking classes in optics and photonics, getting to know his supervisors, and gearing up for the real work which generally begins in year two. Kokabee’s area of scientific interest is the interaction of lasers with plasmas.

Kokabee’s physics specialism has industrial and military relevance, but given his relative inexperience, this young man would hardly be much of an asset to Langley. It is more likely that the reason for Kokabee’s prosecution is to discourage participation by postgraduate students in Iran’s pro-democracy Green Movement. That is certainly the view of Kokabee’s friends and associates, even though the student has not so far expressed an interest in politics.

Kokabee is currently detained in Tehran’s Evin prison, the state’s favoured domicile for political prisoners, and his trial is being presided over by the notorious hanging judge Abolghasem Salavati.

See also: letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader from the Union of Concerned Scientists.