Wife of Princeton scholar jailed in Iran
calls on U.S. to do more to free him
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[September 18, 2017]
By Joseph Ax and Yeganeh Torbati
PRINCETON, N.J. (Reuters) - When Xiyue Wang
sleeps in his cell in Iran's Evin Prison, he sometimes dreams he is back
at Princeton University, working in the school's main library on his
dissertation comparing governance systems in Central Asia.
When he wakes, Wang often does not immediately remember where he is, his
wife, Hua Qu, said in her first extensive interview since his arrest in
Iran about 13 months ago while doing doctoral research. The 36-year-old
naturalized U.S. citizen, who was born in China, was convicted of
espionage and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
"Sometimes I can't even remember what he looks like," she said on
Saturday in the Princeton, New Jersey, apartment that she shares with
their 4-year-old son, whose drawings adorn the walls. "It has been too
long for me."
The interview, along with a candlelight vigil on Friday night organized
by Princeton students, marks a shift in strategy for those closest to
Wang, whom colleagues described as a dedicated scholar, a selfless
friend and a caring father with a gift for cooking.
For nearly a year Qu, Princeton and the Obama and Trump administrations
kept Wang's detention confidential in hopes of brokering a release on
humanitarian grounds. The case became public when the Iran judiciary
announced his sentence in July, three months after he was convicted at
But Qu, 35, is speaking out to encourage Iran and the United States to
resolve her husband's case diplomatically. Wang lost his appeal in
Qu said the United States should engage with Iran beyond quarterly
meetings dedicated to a 2015 nuclear deal between the Middle East
country and world powers.
She pointed to the upcoming United Nations General Assembly in New York
as a prime opportunity for the two countries to discuss the fate of
American prisoners in Iran.
"STAND UP FOR HIM"
At the vigil, Qu called on the U.S. government to "help defend the
values" of academic freedom that drew Wang to study here.
"Will his country stand up for him the same way he stood up for American
values?" she asked. "I hope the answer is a resounding yes."
Asked about Wang's case, a State Department spokeswoman said: "This
administration is redoubling efforts to bring home all Americans
unjustly detained abroad."
[to top of second column]
Hua Qu, wife of Princeton University graduate student Xiyue Wang,
speaks to Reuters about her husband's detention in Iran at her home
in Princeton, New Jersey, U.S. September 16, 2017. REUTERS/Dominick
Iran's mission to the United Nations did not respond to a request
Wang is one of three American citizens known to be imprisoned in
Evin. The others are Iranian-Americans Baquer and Siamak Namazi, an
elderly father and his businessman son, on spying charges.
A fourth American, Robin Reza Shahini, was released on bail in April
after undertaking a hunger strike but still faces 18 years'
imprisonment on charges of threatening national security, according
to human rights activists.
In July, U.S. President Donald Trump promised "new and serious
consequences" unless Iran released the Americans but did not offer
The Obama administration resolved several previous detentions
through a January 2016 prisoner swap that Republicans criticized as
setting a precedent that would encourage Iran to imprison more
Wang was in Iran between January and March 2016 and returned in May
of that year. Two months later, Iranian police seized his passport
and eventually arrested him. He was charged with espionage in
February and convicted in April, according to a timeline released by
Princeton, which hired a lawyer for him in Iran.
When Wang was first arrested, his son would talk about him
frequently but now shows less interest in even speaking with him
when he is able to call from prison, Qu said.
"Now he mentions him less and less," she said. "He's just not very
interested in talking to his dad."
(Reporting by Joseph Ax and Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Lisa Von
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