Amer­i­can con­victed in Iran known for his ‘cu­rios­ity’

The Buffalo News - - WORLD NEWS - By Erin Cun­ning­ham

ISTANBUL – An Amer­i­can scholar jailed in Iran for espionage is “lin­guis­ti­cally gifted” and had “un­bounded in­tel­lec­tual cu­rios­ity” in pur­su­ing his doc­tor­ate at Prince­ton Univer­sity, his ad­viser said Mon­day, adding to an emerg­ing por­trait of the grad­u­ate stu­dent whose 10-year sen­tence was an­nounced by Ira­nian au­thor­i­ties the pre­vi­ous day.

Xiyue Wang, 37, was de­tained in Au­gust while re­search­ing the Qa­jar Dy­nasty for his dis­ser­ta­tion, Prince­ton said Sun­day. His ar­rest, how­ever, was not made pub­lic un­til last week­end, when the ver­dict was an­nounced.

Wang, who is mar­ried and has a son, was ac­cused of us­ing his sta­tus as a re­searcher to send Ira­nian doc­u­ments to the U.S. govern­ment and West­ern uni­ver­si­ties, ac­cord­ing to a re­port from the of­fi­cial news agency of Iran’s ju­di­ciary. His trial was ap­par­ently con­ducted in se­cret. The ver­dict can still be ap­pealed, a spokesman for the ju­di­ciary said.

“He is in­no­cent of all the charges. In Tehran, Wang col­lected doc­u­ments that were 100 years old,” said Stephen Kotkin, Wang’s ad­viser.

Wang was in­ter­ested in pre­dom­i­nantly Mus­lim ar­eas across Eura­sia, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing the late 19th and early 20th cen­turies, Kotkin said. The Qa­jar Dy­nasty ruled the late Per­sian Em­pire from 1785 to 1925.

“He’s deeply in­ter­ested in that re­gion,” Kotkin said, adding that Wang, who was born in Bei­jing, speaks Chi­nese, Per­sian, Rus­sian and Pashto.

Wang, whose travel was fi­nanced by Prince­ton and other aca­demic fel­low­ships, is the lat­est for­eign na­tional to be ar­rested by Ira­nian se­cu­rity ser­vices and con­victed in closed-door pro­ceed­ings, of­ten on vague charges and without ac­cess to a lawyer, hu­man rights groups say.

Iran’s ju­di­ciary, which an­swers to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, is a strong­hold of con­ser­va­tives op­posed to the coun­try’s rap­proche­ment with the West. Un­der the cur­rent sys­tem, pros­e­cu­tors reg­u­larly lack ev­i­dence and pun­ish­ments are harsh, in­clud­ing against po­lit­i­cal dis­si­dents and those ac­cused of na­tional se­cu­rity of­fenses.

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