Iranian officials release imprisoned former UT student

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Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

Iranian government officials released Omid Kokabee from state prison Monday, giving the former UT graduate student “conditional freedom” while he serves out the rest of his 10-year sentence, according to state media reports.

On Monday, Iranian media outlets reported Kokabee, who had been imprisoned in his home country since 2011, had been released by the country’s judiciary. Kokabee was previously released under medical leave in April to treat his deteriorating health and diagnosis of kidney cancer.

Kokabee’s release comes months after UT System Chancellor William McRaven and UT President Gregory Fenves authored a letter urging authorities to release him in light of his condition. 

“During his time studying on campus in the physics department, Mr. Kokabee was a valued member of our academic community and a promising young scholar,” McRaven and Fenves wrote. “At the University, we are very concerned about his imprisonment and now life-threatening health condition.”

UT staff, faculty and fellow students have been actively following Kokabee’s imprisonment and health condition.

Student Government communications representative David Maly, a journalism senior, said he sponsored a resolution that passed in the last assembly backing up the letter from Fenves and McRaven.

“He was already released on medical leave, but it’s [now] more freedom than what he had before,” Maly said after Kokabee’s release. “I hope that he can come back to UT soon and just pick up right where he left off with studying — it’s clearly what he’s passionate about.”

In an open letter, Kokabee said he was being imprisoned after refusing to contribute to the Iranian government’s military research. 

“There’s the whole reason of why he was in jail in the first place,” Maly said. “According to him, it … seemed like an unfair reason for him to be in jail at all.”

Santiago Rosales, speaker of the assembly, said Maly’s resolution was approved with “full support” of his release at its last meeting.

“We’re very relieved to see that the Iranian government has let him go,” said Rosales, a finance and economics junior. “Though he’s on parole, hopefully he’s able to continue pursuing his passions.”