Iran Sentences American to 10 Years in Prison for Espionage

Los Angeles Times
Monday, July 17, 2017

Tehran, Iran — U.S. citizen has been sentenced to prison for espionage in Iran, the latest foreign national to be jailed on spying charges in the Islamic Republic, state news media reported on Sunday.

Mizan news agency, the mouthpiece of Iran’s judiciary, identified the American as Xiyue Wang, 37, a researcher at Princeton University. Wang, who was born in China, was arrested in August 2016 while trying to leave Iran, the report said.

Gholamhosein Ejehi, a spokesman for the judiciary, said a court sentenced Wang to 10 years in prison. He has the right to appeal.

Mizan reported that Wang had “digitally archived” 4,500 pages of Iranian documents for foreign research institutions, including Princeton and the British Institute of Persian Studies.

The news agency published screenshots of Wang’s Princeton web page and an excerpt of a March 2016 report from the British institute that quoted Wang as saying he had been in contact with “senior scholars” at Iranian government archives in Tehran and Mashhad.

Mizan cited the statement as evidence that Wang was on a covert mission, even though the institute’s report was publicly available.

At least three Americans are imprisoned in Iran. Baquer Namazi, 80, and his son Siamak are serving 10-year sentences in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison and are believed to be in ill health. Karan Vafadari, who owns an art gallery in Tehran, was arrested last July with his wife, a U.S. green-card holder. A fourth American, Gholamrez Reza Shahini of San Diego, was sentenced to 18 years in prison on national security crimes but has appealed the judgment and is free on bond.

The U.S. government has repeatedly called for the Americans’ release. An unknown number of Iranians holding European passports are also believed to be jailed.

The prisoners are apparent pawns in a power struggle between the hard-line judiciary and the more moderate government of President Hassan Rouhani. Rouhani, who won re-election in May, has invited Iranian dual citizens to return to the country to help bolster its economy.

In another sign of the struggle, Rouhani’s brother, Hossein Fereidoun, was arrested on corruption charges, Ejehi said on Sunday.

Allegations against Fereidoun of money laundering and stealing government funds date back several years and have not been proven, but hard-liners have called for his arrest for months.

Analysts believe Fereidoun is being targeted because he is close to Rouhani and was part of the negotiating team that sealed the 2015 nuclear agreement with the United States and five other countries. Hard-liners strongly oppose the agreement, which they believe sacrificed Iran’s nuclear program while failing to obtain enough economic concessions in return.