Iran began the trial of 29-year-old Omid Kokabee this week, an Iranian who had, until his arrest, been studying physics at the University of Texas, Austin. Kokabee returned to Iran to visit his parents in February, only to be arrested and charged with espionage, NPR reports, but his case is only now becoming public knowledge. The American Physical Society has rallied to Kokabee’s defense, sending Ayatollah Khamenei a letter asking for his release.
“We are concerned that such treatment of scientific personnel will discourage other Iranian science students from seeking the pursuit of knowledge abroad,” it wrote, adding that Kokabee was studying optics, rather than, say, nuclear physics. “He was just here in the US to do his studies,” one society member tells NPR. “The charges of him having communication with … an enemy government or receiving illegal funds was just kind of ridiculous.”