Tuesday, 17 May 2016
Iranian physicist and prisoner of conscience Omid Kokabee had surgery on 22 April to remove his right kidney. He has been diagnosed with advanced kidney cancer following five years of medical neglect in prison. He needs ongoing specialized post-operative care and cancer treatment. His life will be in grave danger if he is returned to prison.
In April 2016, Omid Kokabee’s lawyer, Saeed Khalili, announced that the 33-year-old physicist was diagnosed with advanced kidney cancer and that his affected kidney had to be immediately removed. Omid Kokabee had complained of kidney and stomach pain for five years in prison but was continually denied specialized medical treatment, including diagnostic testing. He was finally allowed to have a sonogram exam on 26 November 2015 in Taleghani Hospital in Tehran, which revealed a large tumour in his right kidney. Despite his doctors ordering a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan to ascertain the nature of the tumour, the Prosecutor General of Tehran did not approve the test until 8 April 2016, after which Omid Kokabee was diagnosed with Renal Cell Carcinoma (kidney cancer). He remains in Sina University Hospital, outside prison, following his surgery on 22 April to remove the tumour and Amnesty International understands that he is recovering well. His treatment, however, could be disrupted any time, as he remains at risk of being returned to prison to serve the remainder of his sentence.
Omid Kokabee had been waiting years to be referred to a hospital with a urology department for specialized testing but the authorities had repeatedly refused the transfer. They had also refused all his requests for medical leave. Omid Kokabee has passed kidney stones and found blood in his urine on several occasions since the start of his imprisonment. Consequently, he had repeatedly gone to the prison clinic complaining of kidney and stomach pain but the prison doctors never adequately examined him and kept prescribing him painkillers instead. Had he been provided with timely adequate medical care, including diagnostic testing, his kidney cancer may have been detected at an earlier stage and treated before advancing further. Omid Kokabee suffers from a number of other health problems, including heart palpitations, shortness of breath, pain and pressure in his chest, and “migratory” joint pain (pain that moves to different joints throughout the body). He has been complaining of severe toothache and has lost four teeth since his imprisonment. He needs dental work on another four teeth. He also requires tests for his heart palpitations, which can only be done outside the prison.
Omid Kokabee is a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned for spurious charges arising solely from his refusal to work on military projects in Iran and his legitimate scholastic ties with academic institutions outside of Iran.