Iran sentences Princeton grad student to 10 years for spying

An American researcher was sentenced to 10 years in prison in a spying case, an Iranian official said Sunday.


Iran didn’t name the person but Princeton University later identified him as Chinese-born Xiyue Wang, a fourth-year graduate student in Eurasian history at the school. Last summer, the U.S. citizen was arrested in Iran while doing scholarly research in connection with his Ph.D. dissertation, a university in New Jersey said.

“This person, who was gathering information and was directly guided by America, was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but the sentence can be appealed,” Iranian deputy judiciary chief Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejheie said in a video statement carried by the semi-official agency Fars News. Those convicted have 20 days to appeal a sentence.

In the same announcement, the brother of President Hassan Rouhani was arrested on charges of “financial irregularities.” as part of an investigation that involved others. Ferydoon failed to post an unspecified bail and was sent to prison, the spokesman said.

Mizanonline, the Iranian judiciary’s official news agency, said Wang was gathering “highly confidential articles” for U.S. and British institutions, including the U.S. State Department, Princeton, Harvard Kennedy School and the British Institute of Persian Studies.

“Before his arrest he was able to digitally archive 4,500 pages of the country’s documents while under covert surveillance,” the agency said.

Fars initially identified the convicted man’s nationality as Iranian-American.

“We were very distressed by the charges brought against him in connection with his scholarly activities, and by his subsequent conviction and sentence,” Daniel Day, university spokesman said. “His family and the university are … hopeful that he will be released after his case is heard by the appellate authorities in Tehran.”

In October 2016, Reza “Robin” Shahini of San Diego was sentenced to 18 years in prison for spying. The U.S.-Iranian citizen, who was visiting family in Gorgan, Iran, was released on bail in April to await his appeal, The Center For Human Rights in Iran said.

Also that month, Iran sentenced Iranian-Americans Baquer Namazi and his son Siamik to 10 years in prison and fined them $4.8 million for “collaborating with a foreign government,” according to Iran’s official news channel IRINN.

Last year, Iran released four U.S. prisoners as part of a prisoner swap granting clemency to seven Iranians indicted or imprisoned in the United States.

“The Iranian regime continues to detain U.S. citizens and other foreigners on fabricated national-security related changes,” a State Department official told CNN. “The safety and security of U.S. citizens remains a top priority. All U.S. citizens, especially dual nationals considering travel to Iran, should carefully read our latest travel warning.”‎

By Allen Cone