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Wife of Princeton Student 'Unjustly Imprisoned' in Iran Calls for His Release

  • VOA News

FILE - Xiyue Wang is pictured in Hong Kong in this 2009 photo released by a friend of his. Princeton University professor Stephen Kotkin, who advised Wang, a Chinese-American researcher sentenced to prison in Iran, defended his former student as innocent of all charges against him.

The wife of a Princeton University graduate student sentenced to 10 years in prison for espionage in Iran said Tuesday that he had been "unjustly imprisoned'' and called for his immediate release.

"My husband, Xiyue Wang, is one of the kindest, most thoughtful, and most loving men I have ever known," his wife, Hua Qu, said in a written statement. "He has been a devoted husband to me and a father to our four-year-old son.

"We fervently hope that the Iranian authorities will release him soon so that he can return home to his young family.''

Wang, 37, was arrested last summer, an Iranian official said Sunday. His sentencing shocked his colleagues at Princeton, who described him in interviews as a quiet but collegial scholar whose intellectual curiosity stood out even at the elite school in New Jersey.

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. University President Chris Eisgruber said in a letter to the school on Monday that Princeton had kept his arrest confidential on the recommendation of advisers inside and outside government.

U.S. 'very concerned'

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the U.S. was "very concerned'' about Wang's case, though she said she couldn't comment specifically on his situation because of privacy concerns. Nauert said the Swiss, who represent U.S. interests in Iran, had been granted consular access and visited Wang four times.

"We continue to use all means at our disposal to advocate for U.S. citizens who need our assistance overseas, especially for the release of any unjustly detained U.S. citizens who are held overseas,'' Nauert said.

Wang, a history student at Princeton since 2013, was conducting field work in Iran for his dissertation, which is focused on how Muslim regions are governed.

Iran accused him of scanning 4,500 pages of digital documents. His academic adviser, history professor Stephen Kotkin, said the documents Wang was studying were a century old, and that scanning such materials for later review was a "normal, standard scholarly practice.''

Wang was arrested on August 8, 2016, and was 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 of Government and the British Institute of Persian Studies, according to Mizan Online, a website linked to Iran's judiciary.

The Chinese-born U.S. citizen previously worked as a Pashto translator for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Afghanistan and spent time in Uzbekistan while a student at Harvard University.

In addition to Pashto, English and his native Mandarin, Wang is also proficient in Russian and Turkish and was learning Farsi in Iran.

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