A Chinese-born American graduate student at Princeton University, who was arrested in Iran last year on allegations of espionage, has been convicted and sentenced to 10 years in jail.
Xiyue Wang was conducting research on the Qajar dynasty for his Ph.D. in August 2016 when he was arrested. The 37-year-old was said to be merely looking into the cultural history of Iran as his field of study of late 19th and 20th-century Eurasian history, according to The Guardian.
Iranian Judiciary representative Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Eje’i stated via its official news agency Mizan Online that a dual national had been convicted of being “an infiltrating American agent.”
“It became clear that he was involved in the infiltration project and the initial court has sentenced him to 10 years but this could be appealed.”
Mizan further alleged that Wang pursued espionage “through the cover of being a researcher”.
According to the agency, Wang had been busy collecting data for a digital archive intended for “the world’s biggest anti-Iran spying organization”.
“He entered the country under the cover of a master’s student,” the report said, “but has been gathering secret and top secret [information]” for the U.S. State Department, the Harvard Kennedy School and the British Institute of Persian Studies.
Iranian authorities said that the allegations were based on an anonymous “informed source.”
Wang now has less than 20 days to appeal his sentence.
Princeton officials have stated that they are now coordinating with Wang’s family and lawyer to process his release.
In a statement, the U.S. State Department called for the release of all U.S. citizens in jail in Iran.
“The Iranian regime continues to detain US citizens and other foreigners on fabricated national-security related changes,” a statement said.
“The safety and security of US citizens remain a top priority. All US citizens, especially dual nationals considering travel to Iran, should carefully read our latest travel warning.”
Wang, who was born in China in the 80s, attended Harvard University from 2006 to 2008, and eventually worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Afghanistan.