American Gets 10 Years In Iranian Prison Over Espionage Allegations

After accusing the American student of doing research on behalf of the United States government, Iran gives the accused only 20 days to appeal.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani looks on.

Iran has just sentenced yet another American citizen to prison, making this the sixth case since 2012.

Xiyue Wang, a U.S. citizen born in China, was taken by Iranian authorities in the summer of 2016. He was in the country doing research for a doctoral dissertation for Princeton University. According to the Iranian courts, Wang was accused of pursuing espionage “through the cover of being a researcher.”

Iranian officials accused Wang of having done work for Harvard Kennedy School, the U.S. State Department, and the British Institute of Persian Studies, The Atlantic reports.

But Wang is a graduate student in history at Princeton. And for months, the university's spokesman, Daniel Day, told The New York Times, the school has worked behind the scenes to try to free him, to no avail.

Claiming Wang was “gathering secret and top secret [intelligence],” and that he “[infiltrated] Iran’s national archive and [built] a 4,500-page digital archive [for] the world’s biggest anti-Iran spying organization,” Wang was sentenced to 10 years in prison. With 20 days to appeal his sentence, the school and his family have stated that they are doing all they can so the ruling will be reversed.

“His family and the university are ... hopeful that he will be released after his case is heard by the appellate authorities in Tehran,” a statement by Princeton read.

According to the school, Wang had visited Iran in order to do scholarly research on the Qajar dynasty. As a fourth-year doctoral candidate, he specializes in 19th and early 20th century Eurasian history.

Wang is the first American to be arrested in Iran who is not a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen.

In 2015, U.S. citizen Siamak Namazi, the son of a former governor in the oil-rich Iranian province of Khuzestan, was arrested.

Others holding dual citizenship to have been arrested by Iranian forces include Saeed Abedini, a convert to Christianity who was arrested in 2012; Jason Rezaian, a reporter with The Washington Post; Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. marine; and more recently, Reza “Robin” Shanini, a San Diego resident who was arrested in 2016.

This arrest could result in trouble for the already frail U.S.-Iran relationship.

President Donald Trump has always been critical of the Iran nuclear deal championed by the President Barack Obama administration. With another American now under arrest over dubious charges, the current administration may want to use this against Iran. If anything, Trump may now have more reasons to pressure more countries to avoid doing business with Iran.

Hopefully, Princeton is able to help Wang so that his release is secured and no further issues are reported. After all, if this arrest isn't resolved, Trump could end up using this as a way to up his anti-Iran rhetoric, bringing America and Saudi Arabia even closer together.

Saudi Arabia is currently waging a war in Yemen over ports and territory run by rebels allegedly backed by Iran, and the war is putting countless innocent Yemeni in grave danger.

Thumbnail and banner image credit: Reuters/Morteza Nikoubazl

View Comments

Recommended For You