Iranian regime holds a hostage student for “spying on the dead”

Give President Trump credit for bringing unjustly detained Americans home. Whatever misgivings you may have about his North Korean diplomacy, three American prisoners freed in May are better for it. So is Pastor Andrew Brunson, whom Turkey released this month. “I hope my husband is next,” Hua Qu tells me. “He has literally been taken hostage by Iran.”

Her husband is Xiyue Wang, a history graduate student at Princeton arrested in Tehran in August 2016 and sentenced to 10 years in the notorious Evin Prison. He is one of at least five Americans currently detained in Iran—and the only one who doesn’t also hold Iranian citizenship.

Mr. Wang, then 35, ventured to Iran in January 2016 to research the Qajar dynasty, which ruled Persia from 1794 to 1925. The espionage allegation came after he copied thousands of pages of research material from the National Archives of Iran. As one of his Princeton professors put it, Mr. Wang was accused of “spying on the dead.” The documents he copied were from between 1840 and 1910, according to Ms. Qu.

She received a phone call from her husband Aug. 7, 2016. He told her he had been interrogated at a Tehran hotel for several hours, but things looked OK. He was back at his apartment, and there was someone downstairs who would escort him to his flight back to the U.S. But Mr. Wang never got to the airport, and his wife didn’t hear from him for 20 days.

Then “he suddenly gives me a call,” Ms. Qu says. “He told me he was arrested and they put him into solitary confinement.” Mr. Wang’s captors had repeatedly interrogated him and threatened to hold him forever unless he confessed. Mr. Wang acquiesced and was moved to Evin’s Ward 209, a wing for political prisoners. He remains in Evin today.

“He has been repeatedly denied medical treatment, and it’s very difficult to get books for him,” Ms. Qu says. “Because he is not a dual national . . . he has no family on the ground. He’s probably the only prisoner in Evin that hasn’t seen any family member in three years.” Their son, Shaofan, is now five years old.

Mr. Wang’s case seemed so unusual to outside experts that Princeton and Ms. Qu, convinced it was a mistake, thought it better to stay quiet and wait for an early release. The case dragged on until July 2017, when Iranian officials announced Mr. Wang’s prison sentence. Ms. Qu, still a Chinese citizen, has been waging an advocacy campaign in the U.S. to bring her husband home ever since. She enlisted the support of United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, and in September a U.N. working group found Mr. Wang’s detention was arbitrary and called for his immediate release.

Ms. Qu wishes for a solution detached from the U.S.-Iran clash over the nuclear deal: “My husband’s situation is a humanitarian situation,” she says. “He’s completely a victim of a political crisis.” She also understands that he may remain one.

Source » wsj

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