The wife of a U.S. hostage in Iran told supporters at a Friday rally that Xiyue Wang “is in constant pain from health problems” caused by brutal abuse and rancid living conditions, and “is losing hope.”
The vigil for the Princeton graduate student drew faculty and fellow students, along with Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who said he plans on bringing Hua Qu before Congress to testify about her husband’s plight.
“If we use the leverage that we have, and it is considerable, we can effectuate the release of Wang and other Americans being held,” Smith said.
The congressman noted that “when we make it a priority in our diplomacy, when we prudently and in a solemn fashion use sanctions in a way that’s most likely to achieve a positive outcome, we can see the release of prisoners who are being unjustly incarcerated.”
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.” and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Iranian officials claimed Wang spied using a “sophisticated means” that wasn’t detailed.
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 His doctoral adviser said Wang was scanning historical documents — a “normal, standard scholarly practice” — that were about 100 years old.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, Hua Qu, have a 5-year-old son.
Qu told the vigil participants that it’s “harder and harder for our son to remember his father, and it’s hard for him to grow up with a mother that’s always sad and worried — please bring Xiyue home and make our family whole again.”
She called the recent release of three U.S. hostages from North Korea “encouraging,” and said she hoped Secretary of State Mike Pompeo can have “a similar breakthrough” and bring home U.S. hostages from Iran.
“My husband is an innocent man, Mr. President,” Qu said in an appeal to President Trump. “He’s imprisoned solely because he is American. He is being used as a hostage and pawn.”
Wang is being held in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison, Qu said, “in an area that is mostly underground, cold and dark, overcrowded, and infested by bedbugs.”
“As an American and a non-Muslim, Xiyue has been subjected to abuse and harsh interrogations by the Iranian authorities,” she said.
Wang’s friend Dong Xiang said at the rally that Xiyue is actively exchanging ideas with others in prison “in order to maintain his intellectual capacity and mental health.”
Swiss authorities have visited Wang on behalf of the U.S. multiple times since his August 2016 arrest, the State Department says.
“I miss him terribly,” Qu said. “As time goes by, I fear more and more for his safety.”