Iran rejects Princeton University student’s appeal in espionage case

Xiyue Wang with his family before he went to Iran. Family photo via Princeton University.

Iranian authorities have denied the appeal of a Princeton University student who had been convicted on espionage charges and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Xiyue Wang, a graduate student conducting dissertation research in Iran, was sentenced earlier this summer but has been held in Iran for more than a year.

“We are distressed that his appeal was denied, and that he remains unjustly imprisoned,” university officials said in a statement this afternoon. “Mr. Wang has already been kept apart from his wife and four-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 to 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.”

School officials said Wang was not involved in any political activities or connected to any government agencies. He was a scholar conducting historical research. He went to Iran as a doctoral candidate in the history department. He was studying Eurasian languages and regional governance practices in the late 19th and early 20th centuries for his dissertation. In connection with his doctoral research, he traveled to Iran to study Farsi and to examine historical documents from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He described his research plans in advance to the Iranian authorities and the libraries and archives he planned to visit, and he only sought access to materials that he needed for his dissertation, university officials said.

Wang’s wife, Hua Qu, said in a statement that she is devastated about the appeal decision.

“Our young son and I have not seen Xiyue in more than a year, and we miss him very much,” she said. “The past year has been extremely difficult for our family. We constantly worry about Xiyue’s health and well-being as he remains behind bars in a foreign country away from his family and loved ones. This time has been particularly difficult for my toddler son, who misses his father very much, but is too young to fully comprehend why he is not able to see, hold, or play with his father. It is heartbreaking to hear my son constantly ask about his father’s return home.”

She asked for the immediate release of her husband.

“Our son and I are Chinese citizens. During the past year, we have shown great respect for Iran’s judicial system and have waited patiently while his case has been investigated, prosecuted and tried,” she said. “Xiyue deserves to be freed. We hope the Iranian officials can release him immediately so he can resume his studies at home and so that our family will be together again.”

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