Dr. Kamiar Alaei was supposed to resume his classes this fall at the University at Albany’s school of public health.
Instead, the AIDS doctor and his brother, Dr. Arash Alaei, have been sentenced to prison on charges that they plotted with the United States government to overthrow the Islamic government of Iran.
Kamiar was sentenced to three years in prison and Arash to six years on charges of communicating with an enemy government, said Sarah Kalloch, director of outreach for Physicians for Human Rights, which has spoken out against the brothers’ treatment since they were detained in June.
The doctors received the news Tuesday, a day after the Washington Post quoted an anonymous Iranian senior counterintelligence official as saying that the doctors’ conviction is a message to Barack Obama’s administration that Iran is in a “full-fledged intelligence war” with the U.S.
The official said the doctors were two of four “ringleaders” taking part in a U.S.-funded plot to overthrow the Islamic government of Iran, the Post stated.
PHR officials said the accusations are false.
The two are scheduled to serve their sentences in Tehran’s Evin prison, where inmates are known to have been tortured, Kalloch said.
“We do not have any information on their health,” she said.
PHR officials are worried that the doctors may have been coerced, citing their lengthy detention and investigation without charges last year.
The doctors and their lawyer were notified of the convictions and sentences in writing and were not present in court for the decisions, Kalloch said. She said she didn’t know whether the brothers’ lawyer has been able to speak with them.
The attorney plans to appeal the decision, Kalloch said. She was not sure what the method of appeals is in Iran.
The Iranian judiciary did not give a reason why Arash Alaei received a longer sentence than his brother, Kalloch said.
The university community, where Kamiar Alaei is still considered a student, is concerned about the sentences as well, said spokesman Karl Luntta.
“We hope for a positive outcome for Kamiar and Arash and their family members,” Luntta said.
Kamiar Alaei received a Master of Science degree in population and international health from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston in 1997.
Arash Alaei is the former director of international education and research cooperation for the Iranian National Research Institute of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease.
Since 1998, the brothers have been carrying out HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention programs, particularly focused on helping intravenous drug users.
PHR has denounced the treatment of the Iranian doctors, who still have not been informed of all of the charges against them or been allowed to defend themselves against all charges, in violation of Iranian law.
The case also has sparked an outcry in the international medical community.
Over the past two weeks, more than 2,000 people around the world contacted the Iranian Mission to the United Nations demanding the Alaeis’ release, and more than 3,100 health professionals from 85 countries have signed an online petition demanding their release.