Wife of researcher held in Iran urges his release

Associated Press

Dubai, United Arab Emirates — The wife of a Princeton graduate student sentenced to 10 years behind bars in Iran called on authorities there to release him Tuesday, saying the Chinese-American man has been “unjustly imprisoned.”

Xiyue Wang was arrested nearly a year ago but his confinement only became known Sunday when Iran’s judiciary announced his sentence, accusing him of “infiltrating” the country and sending confidential material abroad.

The 37-year-old, described by Iranian authorities as holding Chinese and American citizenship, was in Iran doing research for his doctorate in late 19th and early 20th century Eurasian history when he was detained.

In her first comments on his case, Wang’s wife Hua Qu described her husband as “one of the kindest, most thoughtful, and most loving men I have ever known.” She said the couple has a 4-year-old son.

“Our son has missed his father for more than a year of his young life, as my husband has been unjustly imprisoned for espionage that I know he did not and never would commit,” she said in a statement distributed by Princeton. “We fervently hope that the Iranian authorities will release him soon so that he can return home to his young family.”

Princeton has been working quietly with Wang’s family, the U.S. government, lawyers and others to secure his release, and hopes he will be released on appeal.

In an email released to staff and obtained by The Associated Press, university President Chris Eisgruber said Princeton has been working on a daily basis to try to free Wang and support his family.

The university and his family had chosen not to publicize Wang’s arrest because U.S. government officials and other advisers had said that doing so might harm Wang’s interests, Eisgruber said.

Wang was arrested on Aug. 8, 2016, and is accused of passing confidential information about Iran to the U.S. State Department, Princeton’s Sharmin and Bijan Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies, the Harvard Kennedy School and the British Institute of Persian Studies, according to Mizan Online, a website linked to Iran’s judiciary.

It alleged he scanned some 4,500 pages of digital documents, paid thousands of dollars to access archives he needed and sought access to confidential areas of Tehran libraries.

His advising professor, Stephen Kotkin, said Wang planned to continue his research in Russia after Iran. His work in Iran involved scanning large numbers of documents that he intended to use while preparing his dissertation after he had left the country — something that Kotkin described as “normal, standard scholarly practice.”

In addition to Mandarin and English, Wang was able to communicate in Persian, Turkish and Pashto, and had worked as a Pashto translator in Afghanistan, Kotkin said. It was his first trip to Iran.

The U.S. State Department has not provided details on the case but called on Tehran to immediately release “all U.S. citizens unjustly detained in Iran.”