Fight for all hostages
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 According to his adviser, this prompted him to review and scan historical documents housed in Iran’s national archive.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.