A Chi­nese American

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY ERIN CUN­NING­HAM AND CAROL MORELLO Morello re­ported from Washington. erin.cun­ning­ham@wash­post.com carol.morello@wash­post.com

stu­dent ac­cused of es­pi­onage was sen­tenced by an Ira­nian court to 10 years in prison.

IS­TAN­BUL — A Chi­nese American stu­dent whom Iran has ac­cused of es­pi­onage was sen­tenced by an Ira­nian court to 10 years in prison, the ju­di­ciary’s of­fi­cial news agency re­ported Sunday, a move likely to raise ten­sions with the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion ahead of a dead­line to waive some Iran sanc­tions.

The Mizan news agency iden­ti­fied the American as Xiyue Wang, 37, a grad­u­ate stu­dent and re­searcher at Prince­ton Univer­sity. The report said he was born in Bei­jing and is a dual cit­i­zen of the United States and China, but that in­for­ma­tion could not be con­firmed.

Ear­lier in the day, ju­di­cial spokesman Gho­lamhos­sein Mohseni Ejehi an­nounced that a U.S. cit­i­zen had been sen­tenced for “in­fil­tra­tion” but did not give fur­ther de­tails.

“It was ver­i­fied and de­ter­mined that he was gath­er­ing [in­for­ma­tion] and was in­volved in in­fil­tra­tion,” Ejehi said at a news con­fer­ence in Tehran, the As­so­ci­ated Press re­ported.

Mizan, which is af­fil­i­ated with Iran’s hard-line ju­di­ciary, later re­ported that Wang was sen­tenced as part of an “in­fil­tra­tion project” that in­cluded the gath­er­ing of “confidential ar­ti­cles” to send to the State Depart­ment and West­ern aca­demic in­sti­tu­tions.

Wang is a fourth-year grad­u­ate stu­dent work­ing on a doc­tor­ate in his­tory, Daniel Day, Prince­ton’s vice president of com­mu­ni­ca­tions, said Sunday.

“He was ar­rested in Iran last sum­mer, while there do­ing schol­arly re­search on the ad­min­is­tra­tive and cul­tural his­tory of the late Qa­jar dy­nasty in con­nec­tion with his Ph.D. dis­ser­ta­tion,” Day said in a state­ment. “Since his ar­rest, the univer­sity has worked with Mr. Wang’s fam­ily, the U.S. gov­ern­ment, pri­vate coun­sel and oth­ers to fa­cil­i­tate his re­lease.

“We were very dis­tressed by the charges brought against him in con­nec­tion with his schol­arly ac­tiv­i­ties, and by his sub­se­quent con­vic­tion and sen­tence.”

Stephen Kotkin, Wang’s ad­viser at Prince­ton, de­scribed him as a gifted scholar who was im­pressed with Per­sian cul­ture.

“Xiyue Wang is a re­mark­able, lin­guis­ti­cally gifted grad­u­ate stu­dent study­ing late 19th- and early 20th-cen­tury gover­nance in pre­dom­i­nantly Mus­lim re­gions — Qa­jar Iran, Afghanistan, im­pe­rial Rus­sian Turkestan,” he said. “He is in­no­cent of all the charges. In Tehran, Wang col­lected doc­u­ments that were 100 years old. He has told me of­ten of his ex­hil­a­ra­tion at the exquisite­ness and depth of Per­sian civ­i­liza­tion.”

The report from Mizan, which in­cluded a photo from the Prince­ton web­site, also con­tained a quote from Wang in which he praises the Bri­tish In­sti­tute of Per­sian Stud­ies for fa­cil­i­tat­ing ac­cess to Iran’s Na­tional Ar­chives and other li­braries. The quote was used as ev­i­dence of his spy­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, the report said, adding, “Wang ad­mits his mis­sion in Iran.”

“I have been hav­ing trou­ble ac­cess­ing Tehran’s ar­chives and li­braries,” Wang said in the 20152016 an­nual report of the Bri­tish In­sti­tute of Per­sian Stud­ies, a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion based in London.

“Mrs. Rey­han­pour of­fered to help,” he said of one of the in­sti­tute’s em­ploy­ees. “And within a few days, she put me in con­tact with se­nior schol­ars at the Na­tional Ar­chive. . . . With­out Mrs. Rey­han­pour’s help it would be hard to imag­ine how long it would have taken for me to be­come ac­quainted with aca­demic in­sti­tu­tions in Iran.”

Wang’s re­ported con­vic­tion comes at a par­tic­u­larly tense time for U.S.-Ira­nian re­la­tions, which have rapidly de­te­ri­o­rated since President Trump took of­fice.

Un­der the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion, the United States and other world pow­ers ne­go­ti­ated a deal with Iran to curb its nu­clear pro­gram in ex­change for sanc­tions re­lief. It was hailed as a vic­tory for diplo­macy and an end to Iran’s global iso­la­tion.

Since then, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has stepped up its an­tiIran rhetoric and placed U.S. par­tic­i­pa­tion in the nu­clear deal un­der re­view. Mon­day is the dead­line for the White House to de­cide whether to is­sue a waiver on nu­clear-re­lated sanc­tions against Iran, a pro­vi­sion that is re­quired pe­ri­od­i­cally un­der the terms of the 2015 nu­clear deal. The ad­min­is­tra­tion is ex­pected to ap­prove the waiver, de­spite an in­ter­nal de­bate on how to re­spond to Iran’s hu­man rights abuses and sup­port for mil­i­tant groups such as Hezbol­lah.

“The Ira­nian regime con­tin­ues to de­tain U.S. cit­i­zens and other for­eign­ers on fab­ri­cated na­tional-se­cu­rity re­lated changes,” a State Depart­ment of­fi­cial said in an emailed state­ment Sunday. Iran is be­lieved to hold a num­ber of for­eign na­tion­als, mostly dual cit­i­zens of the United States and Euro­pean coun­tries, but many of their iden­ti­ties have been kept se­cret.

“We call for the im­me­di­ate re­lease of all U.S. cit­i­zens un­justly de­tained in Iran so they can re­turn to their fam­i­lies,” the State Depart­ment of­fi­cial said.

It was un­clear how long Wang may have been in Ira­nian cus­tody, but Mizan re­ported au­thor­i­ties ar­rested him in Au­gust 2016 as he was leaving the coun­try. Face­book and LinkedIn pages with Wang’s name, photo and sim­i­lar work and study his­tory in­di­cate he stud­ied at Har­vard Univer­sity from 2006 to 2008 and later worked as a Pashto lan­guage in­ter­preter for the In­ter­na­tional Com­mit­tee for the Red Cross in Afghanistan.

“We can­not com­ment more at the present time, ex­cept to say that the Univer­sity con­tin­ues to do every­thing it can to be sup­port­ive of Mr. Wang and his fam­ily,” said Day, the Prince­ton of­fi­cial.

Also Sunday, the brother of Ira­nian President Has­san Rouhani was de­tained for un­spec­i­fied fi­nan­cial crimes, the ju­di­cial spokesman said. Hos­sein Ferei­doun is a close ad­viser to the president and was in­volved in the ne­go­ti­a­tions that led to the nu­clear deal with world pow­ers. Hard-line con­ser­va­tives in Iran had long ac­cused him of cor­rup­tion.

“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, Prince­ton’s vice president of com­mu­ni­ca­tions, in a state­ment on grad­u­ate stu­dent Xiyue Wang

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