Iran Jails US Citizen for 10 Years

Anti-American graffiti in Tehran, tha capital of Iran. (Photo: ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)
Anti-American graffiti in Tehran, tha capital of Iran. (Photo: ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

Iran has sentenced an American researcher to 10 years of imprisonment on charges of spying, according to the BBC.

Xiyue Wang is a 37-year old graduate student in history at Princeton University. He was in Iran conducting research into the 19th and early 20th century Iranian Qajar Dynasty. He was arrested while trying to leave the country last August.

“This person, who was gathering information and was directly guided by America, was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but the sentence can be appealed,” Deputy Judiciary Chief Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejeie announced on state TV on Sunday.

Wang stands accused of gathering “highly confidential articles” about Iran for U.S. and Western

Xiyue Wang
Xiyue Wang (Photo: Princeton profile page)

institutions including the U.S. State Department, Princeton University, Harvard Kennedy School and the British Institute of Persian Studies.

“Before his arrest he was able to digitally archive 4,500 pages of the country’s documents while under covert surveillance,” MizanOnline, the Iranian judiciary’s official news agency said.

Iran has a history of imprisoning American citizens on seemingly spurious charges of spying. However, in the past they have mostly arrested American-Iranian dual nationals, as well as dual-nationals of other Western countries such as the UK.

Prisoners, the families of those imprisoned and diplomats told The Guardian last year that some are being held in order to be used as bargaining chips in future prisoner exchanges with Western countries.

“The Iranian regime continues to detain US citizens and other foreigners on fabricated national-security related changes,” the State Department said in a press statement. “The safety and security of US citizens remains a top priority. All US citizens, especially dual nationals considering travel to Iran, should carefully read our latest travel warning.”

Elliot Friedland
Elliot Friedland is a research fellow at Clarion Project.