Scholar de­fends Chi­nese-Amer­i­can Grad­u­ate stu­dent jailed in Iran

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

A Chi­nese-Amer­i­can grad­u­ate stu­dent sen­tenced to 10 years in prison in Iran for al­legedly “in­fil­trat­ing” the coun­try and send­ing con­fi­den­tial ma­te­rial abroad is in­no­cent of all charges against him, his ad­vis­ing pro­fes­sor at Prince­ton Univer­sity said on Mon­day. Xiyue Wang’s ar­rest, which au­thor­i­ties said hap­pened nearly a year ago, only came to light a day ear­lier when Iran’s ju­di­ciary an­nounced his sen­tence as well as the de­ten­tion of Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani’s brother in an un­re­lated case.

Prince­ton said that it is “very dis­tressed” by the charges lev­eled against Wang while he was car­ry­ing out schol­arly re­search in the Is­lamic Repub­lic. It has been work­ing Wang’s fam­ily, the US govern­ment, lawyers and oth­ers to se­cure his re­lease, it added. “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,” the univer­sity said.

Per­sian re­searcher

An ar­ti­cle posted on Mizan On­line, a web­site af­fil­i­ated with the ju­di­ciary, said 37-year-old Wang was born in Bei­jing and en­tered Iran as a re­searcher who is flu­ent in Per­sian. It said he is a dual na­tional of the United States and China. He has al­ready filed an ap­peal to his sen­tence, ac­cord­ing to the web­site. Wang was ar­rested on Aug 8, 2016 and is ac­cused of pass­ing con­fi­den­tial in­for­ma­tion about Iran to the US 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, Mizan On­line said.

It al­leged he recorded some 4,500 pages of dig­i­tal doc­u­ments, paid thou­sands of dol­lars to ac­cess ar­chives he needed and sought ac­cess to con­fi­den­tial ar­eas of Tehran li­braries. Prince­ton Univer­sity pro­fes­sor Stephen Kotkin, who has served as Wang’s doc­toral ad­viser, de­fended him in an email to The As­so­ci­ated Press. “Xiyue Wang is a re­mark­able, lin­guis­ti­cally gifted grad­u­ate stu­dent,” he wrote. “He is in­no­cent of all the charges.” The doc­u­ments Wang col­lected were 100 years old, Kotkin said, adding that Wang “has told me of­ten of his ex­hil­a­ra­tion at the exquisite­ness and depth of Per­sian civ­i­liza­tion.” In its state­ment, Prince­ton said Wang was ar­rested while con­duct­ing re­search on the 17941925 Qa­jar dy­nasty for his doc­tor­ate in late 19th and early 20th cen­tury Eurasian his­tory. A photo of Wang on Prince­ton’s his­tory de­part­ment shows him pos­ing un­der a plaque at the en­trance of China’s of­fi­cial Xin­hua News Agency’s bureau in Kabul, Afghanistan.

A short bio on the Prince­ton in Asia web­site said Wang had been a fel­low in Hong Kong in 2008-2009, had com­pleted a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in South Asian stud­ies at the Univer­sity of Wash­ing­ton and did Rus­sian and Eurasian stud­ies at Har­vard. “For bet­ter or worse, he still can’t tell you what ex­actly he has been study­ing in the many years that have passed,” the site said. “What he does know is that his dream is to walk the an­cient Silk Road from Xi’an to Rome one day.”

‘Hos­tile govern­ment’

The US State De­part­ment has not pro­vided de­tails on the case but called on Tehran to im­me­di­ately re­lease “all US cit­i­zens un­justly de­tained in Iran.” The US does not main­tain for­mal diplo­matic re­la­tions with Tehran and warns its cit­i­zens trav­el­ing there that they risk ar­rest or be­ing barred from leav­ing Iran. “The Ira­nian regime con­tin­ues to de­tain US cit­i­zens and other for­eign­ers on fab­ri­cated na­tional-se­cu­rity re­lated changes,” it said in a state­ment to the AP. Other Amer­i­cans who re­main in Ira­nian cus­tody in­clude Ira­nian-Amer­i­can art gallery man­ager Karan Vafadari, who was de­tained along with his Ira­nian wife last year. They have yet to be con­victed of a crime.

Ira­nian-Amer­i­can busi­ness­man Sia­mak Na­mazi and his 81-year-old father, Ba­quer Na­mazi, are each serv­ing 10-year sen­tences for “co­op­er­at­ing with the hos­tile Amer­i­can govern­ment.” An­other Ira­nian-Amer­i­can, Robin Shahini, was re­leased on bail last year af­ter stag­ing a weeks-long hunger strike while serv­ing an 18-year prison sen­tence for “col­lab­o­ra­tion with a hos­tile govern­ment.” He is be­lieved to still be in Iran.

For­mer FBI agent Robert Levin­son, who van­ished in Iran in 2007 while on an unau­tho­rized CIA mis­sion, re­mains un­ac­counted for. Also in an Ira­nian prison is Nizar Zakka, a US per­ma­nent res­i­dent from Le­banon who ad­vo­cates for in­ter­net free­dom. He lives in Wash­ing­ton DC and has done work for the US govern­ment. He was sen­tenced to 10 years be­hind bars last year af­ter be­ing ac­cused of espionage-re­lated charges.

Wang’s sen­tence was an­nounced the same day that au­thor­i­ties said they had de­tained Pres­i­dent Rouhani’s brother, Hos­sein Ferei­doun, on al­le­ga­tions of fi­nan­cial mis­con­duct. Ferei­doun is a close con­fi­dante of the mod­er­ate pres­i­dent, a cleric who changed his sur­name to Rouhani, mean­ing “spir­i­tual,” af­ter join­ing the sem­i­nary decades ago. Ferei­doun was part of the Iran’s ne­go­ti­at­ing team dur­ing the fi­nal phases of its 2015 nu­clear deal with world pow­ers. He has long been a tar­get of hard-lin­ers, who have ac­cused him of mis­deeds, in­clud­ing money laun­der­ing and mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tion of govern­ment funds.

The semi-of­fi­cial Fars news agency re­ported that Ferei­doun is be­ing held on bail of about $15 mil­lion. He ap­peared briefly in court on Mon­day but had to be taken away by am­bu­lance for an undis­closed heath con­cern. He is known to suf­fer from lung prob­lems dat­ing from the Iran-Iraq War dur­ing the 1980s. — AP

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