Joint Letter of Nobel Laureates and Academics to UN for Release of Elite Students

23 January 2022: Several Nobel laureates & distinguished scholars have asked António Guterres and Michelle Bachelet to make every effort to ensure Ali Younesi and Amirhossein Moradi, two students at Sharif University arbitrarily detained in Iran since April 10, 2020, are released immediately.

Iran’s Human Rights defenders have been campaigning against the impending heavy and baseless sentences against Ali Younesi and Amirhossein Moradi who have been held in pre-trial detention since their arrests in April 2020, after their forced confessions were aired by state media. Their trial will continue on Tuesday, January 25, at beach 29 of Tehran Revolutionary Court.

Nobel laureates and distinguished scholars have written a letter to United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres and United Nations high Commissioner for Human rights, Michelle Bachelet, calling for the immediate release of the students elite students Ali Younesi and AmirHossein Moradi who have been arbitrarily imprisoned in Evin Prison since April 2020.

In December 2021, their forced confessions obtained under torture were aired on state-run Fars news agency, linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards’ Corps, raising concerns of the impeding heavy sentences for the two students. 

The letter reads:

We, the Nobel Laureates and distinguished academics signing this statement, would like to join those other scholars calling for the immediate release of the students Ali Younesi and AmirHossein Moradi who have been arbitrarily imprisoned since April 10, 2020. The two men, both aged 20 at the time of their arrest, were the students of the prestigious Sharif University of technology (SUT) in Tehran.

Since their arrests, both students have suffered physical and mental torture and other ill-treatment including forced confessions.

One hundred and seventy-four professors and directors of various departments at SUT wrote a letter in May 2021the Iranian authorities demanding the release of the two students. More importantly, the majority of the students of SUT have, on various occasions, expressed their serious concerns on the conditions of the detentions of their two fellow students.

Amnesty International released two calls for ‘Urgent Action’ on November 22, 2021; May 12, 2020 and addressed to the Iranian authorities .

Please find enclosed a brief note on the outstanding educational background of these two students who, despite their youth, have won several medals at national and international competitions, including the Astronomy and Astrophysics Olympiad.

We urge you to use your good offices in making every effort to ensure that political prisoners in Iran, particularly the two students Ali Younesi and AmirHossein Moradi, are released immediately.

We would sincerely appreciate your valuable efforts in defending the core values of human rights values.

Yours faithfully,

Preliminary Signatures

  • Professor Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor & Professor of Linguistics emeritus, Le Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
  • Sir Richard Roberts, Nobel Prize, Medicine 1993
  • Professor Barry Barish, Nobel Prize, Physics 2017
  • Professor Martin Chalfie, Nobel Prize, Chemistry, 2008
  • Professor Randy Schekman, Nobel Prize, Medicine 2013
  • Professor Jack W. Szostak, Nobel Prize, Medicine 2009
  • Professor David Wineland, Nobel Prize, Physics 2012

Other Academics

  • Professor Reza Afshari, Professor Emeritus of History and Human Rights- Pace University, New York, USA. 
  • Professor Ali Arab, Professor of Mathematics & Statistics, Georgetown University, Washington, USA.
  • Professor Eugene Chudnovsky, distinguished professor at New York University and Co-Chair of the Committee of Concerned Scientists.
  • Ms Michele Irwin, International Programs Manager at the American Physical Society
  • Professor Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, Oslo University, Neuroscientist and Human Rights advocate—Norway.
  • Professor Saeed Rahnema, Professor of Political Science and Public Policy-York University, Canada.
  • Professor Virginia Trimble, Professor of Physics and Astronomy, University of California Irvine, Past Chair Historical Astronomy-Division of American Astronomical Society.
  • Professor Bahram Soltani, University of Paris Sorbonne and Human Rights Advocate, France.
  • Professor Reza Younesi, Uppsala University, Sweden.

Additional supporting signatures of Nobel laureates dated May 15, 2020 (Letter to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on two arrested Iranian students)

  • Professor Barry Barish, Nobel Prize, Physics 2017
  • Professor Thomas Cech, Nobel Prize, Chemistry 1989
  • Professor Elias Corey, Nobel Prize, Chemistry 1990
  • Professor Jerome Friedman, Nobel Prize, Physics 1986
  • Professor Sheldon Glashow, Nobel Prize, Physics, 1979
  • Professor John Lewis Hall, Nobel Prize, Physics 2005
  • Professor John Mather, Nobel Prize, Physics 2006
  • John Polanyi, Nobel Prize, Chemistry 1986, Canada
  • Professor Richard Roberts, Nobel Prize, Medicine 1993

Ali Younesi, a computer engineering student at Sharif University of Technology, and Amir Hossein Moradi, a physics student at the university, were arrested without a legal summons on 10 April 2020 and were held in solitary confinement for two months before being transferred to the Ministry of Intelligence’s (MOIS) Ward 209 in Evin Prison.

While at high school, Ali Younesi won silver and gold at the National Astronomy Olympiad in 2016 and 2017 respectively. In his senior year of high school, he won the gold medal with the Iranian national team at the 2018 World Astronomy Olympiad in China. Amir Hossein Moradi also won silver at the 2017 Iranian Astronomy Olympiad.

It should be noted that the Iranian security services have a history making false allegations and forcing false confessions under duress. In one case, Maziar Ebrahimi, an Iranian citizen, was arrested on charges of involvement in the assassination of nuclear scientists in 2012 by the Ministry of Intelligence. He pleaded guilty to the allegations in a televised confession, but was acquitted and released in 2014  when his innocence was proven following a dispute between the Islamic Republic Guards Corps (IRGC) and the Ministry of Intelligence. It is believed that many people have been victims of false allegations charges and never had the opportunity to prove their innocence.

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