US student jailed 10 years in Iran on spying charges

Princeton graduate student Wang Xiyue was working on a doctorate and doing scholarly research in Iran when he was arrested, said the university.
Princeton graduate student Wang Xiyue was working on a doctorate and doing scholarly research in Iran when he was arrested, said the university.PHOTO: NYTIMES

ISTANBUL • A Chinese American student who Iran has accused of espionage has been sentenced by an Iranian court to 10 years in prison, 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 Wang Xiyue, a 37-year-old graduate student and researcher at Princeton University.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman denied yesterday that Wang held Chinese citizenship after reports that he had dual citizenship in China and the US.

Judicial spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejehi announced on Sunday that a US 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," Mr Ejehi said.

The Mizan news agency, which is affiliated with Iran's hardline judiciary, later reported that Wang was sentenced as part of an "infiltration project" that included the gathering of "confidential articles" to send to the US State Department and other Western academic institutions.

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

"He was arrested in Iran last summer while there doing scholarly research on the administrative and cultural history of the late Qajar dynasty," Mr Day said in a statement.

"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 Teheran."

The report from Mizan, which included a photo from the Princeton website, also contained a quote from Mr 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.

WASHINGTON POST, XINHUA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 18, 2017, with the headline 'US student jailed 10 years in Iran on spying charges'. Print Edition | Subscribe