The wife of an American graduate student held hostage in Iran pleaded with President Trump to “open up a dialogue with Iranian authorities to discuss a resolution of my husband’s case,” telling NBC News that Xiyue Wang has attempted suicide in deplorable conditions behind bars.
Iran’s Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni Eje’i announced on state TV in July that an imprisoned American was “gathering intelligence and was directly guided by the U.S., was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but the sentence can be appealed,” reported the semi-official Fars news agency, which said Iranian officials claimed Wang spied using a “sophisticated means” that wasn’t detailed.
In a statement, Princeton University confirmed Wang is a fourth-year doctoral candidate in late 19th and early 20th century Eurasian history. “He was arrested in Iran last summer, while there doing scholarly research on the administrative and cultural history of the late Qajar dynasty in connection with his Ph.D. dissertation. Since his arrest, the university has worked with Mr. Wang’s family, the U.S. government, private counsel and others to facilitate his release.”
Wang was arrested in August 2016 after Iran said he was scanning large quantities of documents and sending digital scans to the State Department, Princeton and Harvard. His doctoral adviser said Wang was scanning historical documents — a “normal, standard scholarly practice” — that were about 100 years old. Wang got his bachelor’s degree at the University of Washington and studied at Harvard before Princeton. He speaks English, Mandarin, Persian, Turkish and Pashto.
He and his wife, Qu Hua, have a 4-year-old son.
“Only the U.S. government can sort this out, only the U.S. government can help us,” she said. “…He is extremely stressed, he has depression and he attempted to commit suicide, and he had multiple diseases.”
Iran paraded Wang in front of the cameras in new footage released Sunday. Qu told NBC she was “shocked” and “extremely upset” that her husband was “misrepresented on Iran’s state television.”
“He went to Iran with all the required approvals. He openly and honestly disclosed his interests in looking at the historical documents,” she said. “He’s innocent and he is just a student. He has no connection with any government agency, he’s not doing any secret project for any agency, for any secret institution. He was criminalized because of his citizenship.”
“I don’t know how long this will last, but every month I have hope that he can come home at any time, that they would automatically release him quietly,” Qu added. “But my hope of his return has been shattered time and time again throughout the past year because all of this.”
State Department press secretary Heather Nauert said at Tuesday’s briefing that Wang is “unjustly detained” and his is “a situation that we have followed very, very carefully.”
“We continue to call on the Government of Iran to release detained prisoners that are unjustly detained, in particular American citizens. We call on them to be released immediately. We strongly condemned Iran subjecting Mr. Wang and other prisoners to forced video appearances. That is something – it’s shameful. It’s shameful to use our people in that kind of fashion,” Nauert said.
“He was conducting legitimate research in Iran. I want to make clear he has no association with the U.S. government and has never passed any information to the U.S. government about the government of Iran,” she added.
Swiss authorities have visited Wang on behalf of the U.S. five times since his August 2016 arrest.
Nauert said the U.S. views the espionage charges against Wang as “spurious at best.”