August 23, 2017

Iran Denies Graduate Student’s Appeal of 10-Year Sentence

Iranian authorities have denied the appeal of Princeton University graduate student Xiyue Wang, who had been convicted of espionage and sentenced to 10 years in prison, the University announced last Thursday.

Mr. Wang was in Iran in 2016 conducting research for his doctoral dissertation in history when he was arrested and
accused by Iran authorities of ”spying under the cover of research.” Princeton University issued a statement last Thursday expressing support for Mr. Wang and reaffirming that he is innocent of all charges. 

“We are distressed that his appeal was denied, and that he remains unjustly imprisoned,” the statement read. “Mr. Wang was not involved in any political activities or connected to any government agencies; he was simply a scholar conducting historical research.”

The University statement continued, “Mr. Wang has already been kept apart from his wife and 4-year-old son for more than a year. The University continues to hope that the Iranian authorities will allow this genuine scholar, devoted husband, and caring father return to his doctoral studies and his family. We will continue to do everything we can to be supportive of Mr. Wang and his family, and of efforts to seek his safe return home.”

Mr. Wang has been at Evin Prison in Tehran since August 7, 2016, and he spent his first 18 days in solitary confinement, according to Princeton University. He has been in multiple wards during his time in prison, and both the University and Mr. Wang’s wife Hua Qu have expressed concern for Mr. Wang’s health under difficult prison conditions.

During his confinement Mr. Wang has had four consular visits by the Swiss embassy, which represents U.S. interests in Iran. He has also been permitted to make phone calls to his wife on an almost weekly basis and has had several visits from his attorney.

The American Council on Education and 31 other higher education and research associations have issued a statement urging Mr. Wang’s return home, and more than 1,400 researchers from 37 countries have signed a petition also calling for his safe return.

A State Department official has called “for the immediate release of all U.S. citizens unjustly detained in Iran so they can return to their families,” and last month the White House said that President Trump “is prepared to impose new and serious consequences on Iran unless all unjustly imprisoned American citizens are released and returned,” but it did not specify what those conditions might be.

Mr. Trump and his administration have taken a hard line against Iran and Iran’s destabilizing policies in the Middle East.

The State Department has also accused Iran of fabricating security-related charges to detain Americans and others, and has advised, “All U. S. citizens, especially dual nationals, considering travel to Iran should carefully read our latest travel warning.”

Asserting that Mr. Wang’s “research was solely for the purpose of completing his academic work,” the statement by higher education organizations stated, “Scholars around the world engage every day in archival research in pursuit of historical knowledge. Mr. Wang’s imprisonment can only have a chilling effect on historical research and scholarly exchange in Iran and throughout the world, and this, in turn can only lead to diminished understanding and greater mistrust, to the detriment of all. We urge the safe release of Xiyue Wang and call for him to be allowed to return home to reunite with his wife and young son and complete his degree.”