Iran has imprisoned a Chinese-American man for 10 years after accusing him of “infiltrating” the country and detained President Hassan Rouhani’s brother over allegations of financial misconduct, authorities said on Monday.
Hossein Fereidoun's detention comes less than two months after relative moderate Rouhani beat a hard-line opponent to win reelection by running in large part on his record of pursuing greater engagement with the West. They were announced by the judiciary, a pillar of hard-liners’ influence.
The Chinese-American dual national was identified as Xiyue Wang, a 37-year-old history researcher, according to Mizan Online, a website affiliated with the judiciary.
He was not previously known to be among the handful of Americans detained in Iran.
“It was verified and determined that he was gathering (information) and was involved in infiltration,” Judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi said during a routine press briefing.
Ejehi did not identify Wang by name. But hours after he spoke, Mizan published an article attributed to an unnamed source that revealed his identity and included several photos of him apparently taken from the internet.
The Mizan article said he was born in Beijing and entered Iran as a researcher. It pointed to graduate studies he did at Princeton University in 2013 and 2014 and described him as a fluent speaker of Persian.
In a statement, Princeton said Wang was arrested in Iran last summer while conducting research on the 1794-1925 Qajar dynasty for his PhD in late 19th and early 20th-century Eurasian history.
“We were very distressed by the charges brought against him in connection with his scholarly activities, and by his subsequent conviction and sentence,” the statement read.
The university said it’s been working with Wang’s family, the US government, private counsel and others to secure his release. It said it was hopeful he would be released upon appeal.
A photo of Wang on Princeton’s history department shows him posing under a plaque at the entrance of China’s official Xinhua News Agency’s bureau in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Wang was arrested on August 8, 2016, and is accused of passing confidential information about Iran to the US State Department, Princeton’s Sharmin and Bijan Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies, the Harvard Kennedy School and the British Institute of Persian Studies, according to Mizan. It alleged he recorded some 4,500 pages of digital documents.
The US State Department was not immediately able to provide details on the case. It said its citizens’ safety and security is a top priority.