Xiyue Wang, a 37-year-old graduate student studying in Iran, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for spying for U.S. and British intelligence agencies.
Wang, a 37-year-old Princeton University graduate student, was pursuing a Ph.D. in Eurasian history, studying local government in predominantly Muslim regions during the late 19th and early 20th centuries when he was arrested.
According to a statement from Princeton spokesman Daniel Day, Wang was arrested in Iran in the summer of 2016 while doing ‘scholarly research on the administrative and cultural history of the late Qajar dynasty in connection with his Ph.D. dissertation.’
Under Iranian law, a convicted person has 20 days to appeal their sentence.
Sunday, the semi-official news agency Fars News, citing a video statement from Iranian judicial spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejheie, initially identified the convicted man’s nationality as Iranian-American. Later, Fars News, again citing Mohseni-Ejheie, said he was a citizen of the United States and a country other than Iran.
The dates of Wang’s trial have not been disclosed. He was arrested and put on trial for “gathering information,” and the sentence can be appealed, said Mohseni-Ejheie, speaking in the Fars News video statement.
Reports indicate that Wang was accused of ‘gathering confidential articles with the intention of delivering them to the State Department and Western academic institutions.’
In a statement, Princeton officials said they have been working with Wang’s family, private counsel and others to aid his release.
“We were very distressed by the charges brought against him in connection with his scholarly activities, and by his subsequent conviction and sentence,” Day said. “His family and the university are … hopeful that he will be released after his case is heard by the appellate authorities in Tehran.”
The United States State Departmreleasedsted a statement, calling for the release of Wang and all American citizens being held unjustly in Iran.
“The Iranian regime continues to detain US citizens and other foreigners on fabricated national-security-related changes,” the official said. “The safety and security of US citizens remains a top priority. All US citizens, especially dual nationals considering travel to Iran, should carefully read our latest travel warning.”
The sentencing of Wang comes nearly a year after San Diego resident Reza “Robin” Shahini was sentenced to 18 years in prison for spying in October 2016. Iran also ran sentenced Iranian-Americans Baquer Namazi and his son Siamik to 10 years in prison for “collaborating with a foreign government” in 2016.