Fight for all hostages

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - EDITORIAL PAGE -

Less than a month af­ter the death of Otto Warm­bier, news emerged of an­other Amer­i­can stu­dent im­pris­oned by a hos­tile power. Xiyue Wang, a grad­u­ate stu­dent and re­searcher at Prince­ton Univer­sity, has been sen­tenced to 10 years in an Ira­nian prison on charges of es­pi­onage. He was vis­it­ing Tehran to re­search the cul­tural his­tory of the Qa­jar dy­nasty. Ac­cord­ing to his ad­viser, this prompted him to re­view and scan his­tor­i­cal doc­u­ments housed in Iran’s na­tional ar­chive. He was sub­se­quently ac­cused of “in­fil­tra­tion” and col­lect­ing “con­fi­den­tial ar­ti­cles” to send to the State Depart­ment and West­ern aca­demic in­sti­tu­tions. He is one of at least four Amer­i­can cit­i­zens and two per­ma­nent U.S. res­i­dents cur­rently be­hind bars in Iran.

Iran has a long his­tory of im­pris­on­ing Amer­i­cans with­out due process or trans­parency. But Wang’s case is the first to come to light af­ter Iran’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tions in May, which re­sulted in a land­slide vic­tory for Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani and his rel­a­tively mod­er­ate plat­form.

The ar­rests war­rant a strong diplo­matic re­sponse, and early signs have been en­cour­ag­ing. The State Depart­ment an­nounced new sanc­tions on Iran on July 18, specif­i­cally cit­ing the de­tain­ment of Amer­i­cans on “fab­ri­cated” charges as a fac­tor in its de­ci­sion. The White House also is­sued a strong state­ment con­demn­ing the ar­rests.

Af­ter the tragic case of Warm­bier, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has indi­cated that it will make free­ing Amer­i­can hostages a pri­or­ity. Ad­dress­ing Iran’s prac­tice of de facto hostage-tak­ing is a good place to start.

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