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Norwegian court convicts scientist who let Iranian students use microscope

A court in Oslo, Norway, sentenced a researcher to eight months in prison for giving four PhD students from Iran access to a scanning electron microscope at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim. Norwegian legislation and international sanctions imposed on Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions prohibit Iranian researchers from using such equipment without a license from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The crime took place between the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019. The judges concluded that the microscope could have been used to examine metal alloys with potential military applications.

The name of the convicted researcher was not made public, but it is known that he is 49 years old, was born in Iran, and worked in Germany. He was fired from NTNU after the incident and is now working at a university in Qatar. He has the right to appeal the sentence. Although he told his superiors about the visiting students, he did not inform them that they would be using the microscope. Their use of the equipment was only discovered when another scientist complained that the university’s nanomechanics laboratory was very busy. “The ruling in the case clearly expresses that the researcher abused the trust inherent in his position,” Olav Bolland, director of the NTNU’s School of Engineering, told Times Higher Education. The researcher said through his lawyer, Brynjulf Risnes, that he does not agree with the sentence and that he did nothing wrong.