A Chinese-American graduate student at Princeton University has been sentenced to 10 years in prison in Iran for allegedly “infiltrating” the country and sending confidential material abroad.
Xiyue Wang is a fourth-year doctoral student in the history department. His field is late 19th and early 20th century Eurasian history. He was conducting research for his dissertation in Iran last summer when he was arrested and accused of espionage. His research is about the administrative and cultural history of the late Qajar dynasty from 1794 to 1925.
“Since his arrest, the university has worked with Mr. Wang’s family, the U.S. government, private counsel and others to facilitate his release,” Princeton University officials said in a statement Sunday.
“We were very distressed by the charges brought against him in connection with his scholarly activities, and by his subsequent conviction and sentence,” reads the statement. “His family and the university are distressed at his continued imprisonment and are hopeful that he will be released after his case is heard by the appellate authorities in Tehran. In the interim, the university will continue to do everything it can to be supportive of Mr. Wang and his family.”
Iran’s judiciary announced Wang’s conviction during a press conference on Sunday.
Wang, 37, was arrested on Aug. 8 of 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 the Iranian government, he allegedly recorded about 4,500 pages of digital documents.
Wang’s adviser, Princeton University professor Stephen Kotkin, told the Associated Press in an email Monday that he is innocent of all charges.
“Xiyue Wang is a remarkable, linguistically gifted graduate student,” he wrote, of Wang, who is fluent in Persian.
The documents Wang collected were 100 years old, Kotkin told the Associated Press, adding that Wang “has told me often of his exhilaration at the exquisiteness and depth of Persian civilization.”
Wang was a Princeton in Asia fellow in Hong Kong in 2008 and 2009. He earned his bachelor’s degree in South Asian studies at the University of Washington and then attended Harvard for Russian and Eurasian studies.