Grad student Xiyue Wang, 37, was in Iran last summer doing research on Eurasian history for his PhD. He is now facing 10 years in prison.
Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Eje’i, spokesman for the Iranian judiciary, said in a weekly press briefing in Tehran on Sunday that a US dual national had been sentenced to 10 years in prison. He did not name the individual but said the accused was an “infiltrating agent”, terminology often used to describe those collaborating with foreign governments.
“He had entered the country through a special connection but the ministry of intelligence identified him and arrested him,” said spokesman Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Eje’i. “It became clear that he was involved in the infiltration project and the initial court has sentenced him to 10 years but this could be appealed.”
Mizan Online, a news agency affiliated to the Iranian judiciary, later identified the detained man as Xiyue Wang, a 37-year-old, Chinese-born researcher at Princeton University. The Mizan article claims that Wang was born in Beijing and entered Iran as a researcher. It pointed to graduate studies he did at Princeton University in 2013 and 2014, and described him as a fluent speaker of Persian.
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. It alleged he recorded some 4,500 pages of digital documents.
Wang is one of several Americans in Iranian custody.
Iranian-American art gallery manager Karan Vafadari was detained along with his Iranian wife last year and have yet to be convicted of a crime.
Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi and his 81-year-old father, Baquer Namazi, are each serving 10-year sentences for “cooperating with the hostile American government.” As The Iranian previously reported, the younger Namazi has been subjected to cruel and unusual treatment since his internment began in 2015.
FBI agent Robert Levinson, who vanished in Iran in 2007 while on an unauthorized CIA mission is still missing.
Another Iranian-American, Robin Shahini, was released on bail last year after staging a weeks-long hunger strike while serving an 18-year prison sentence for “collaboration with a hostile government.”
Also in an Iranian prison is Nizar Zakka, a U.S. permanent resident from Lebanon who advocates for internet freedom. Zakka lives in Washington D.C. and has done work for the U.S. government. Zakka disappeared in Iran on September 18, 2015, after attending a conference in Tehran. He was later sentenced to 10 years in prison after being accused of being an American spy.
A Princeton statement emailed to The Guardian said: “Xiyue Wang is a fourth-year doctoral candidate … in the Department of History at Princeton University. His field is late 19th- and early 20th-century Eurasian history. He was in Iran last summer solely for the purpose of doing scholarly research on the administrative and cultural history of the late Qajar dynasty in connection with his PhD dissertation.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department called for all U.S. citizens jailed in Iran to be immediately released. “The Iranian regime continues to detain US citizens and other foreigners on fabricated national-security related changes,” said the State Department. “All US citizens, especially dual nationals considering travel to Iran, should carefully read our latest travel warning.”
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