In Prisoner Swap, Iran Frees American Held Since 2016 – The New York Times, The New York Times

In Prisoner Swap, Iran Frees American Held Since 2016 – The New York Times, The New York Times

Xiyue Wang was a graduate student at Princeton who had been sentenced to years in prison on two charges of espionage that US Officials have called groundless.


Xiyue Wang, a Princeton doctoral student, in 2017. He traveled to Iran a year later to study Farsi and conduct archival research for his dissertation.********************


Dec. 7,

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    WASHINGTON – Iran on Saturday freed an American graduate student who had been imprisoned in Tehran for more than three years on suspicion of being a spy, in an exchange of prisoners at a moment of high tensions with Washington.The American, Xiyue Wang, was flown in a Swiss government airplane from Tehran to Zurich , where he was met by Brian H. Hook, the State Department’s special representative for Iran, according to two senior United States officials.Wang, 52, was a fourth-year Princeton University graduate student conducting research in Iran when he was arrested there in August 2017. Hewas charged with espionageand sentenced to years in prison. United States officials deny that Mr. Wang, who had been locked in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison, was a spy.In exchange for Mr. Wang’s release, the United States freed Masoud Soleimani, an Iranian scientist whowas arrested at a Chicago airportlast year and was convicted on charges of violating American trade sanctions against Iran. American officials said that Mr. Soleimani’s release was a low price to pay for Mr. Wang’s freedom because Mr. Soleimani was expected to be released from prison as early as next month under a plea agreement.
    ************************** The White House confirmed the prisoner swap early on Saturday with a statement from President Trump. Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, alsoconfirmed the deal on Twitterand posted photos of himself accompanying Mr. Soleimani

    ******************************** (home on an Iranian jet.the senior American officials, speaking only on the condition of anonymity to discuss the delicate nature of the exchange, said they saw no indication that it portended a larger dialogue with Iran.As part of a “maximum pressure” campaign, ”Mr. Trump has targeted the country with severe economic sanctions. The president, whowithdrew from the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal, has said he hopes to negotiate with Tehran over its nuclear program and regional aggression. On Wednesday, Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani,reiteratedthat Iran would be prepared to meet with the parties to the nuclear deal, including the United States, “whenever the US lifts the unfair sanctions. ”****************


    But it was Mr. Hook, working through Swiss intermediaries who often serve as a diplomatic channel between Washington and Tehran, who negotiated the prisoner exchange.Hook has had no direct contact with Iranian officials since a March 5139 meeting in Vienna shortly before Mr. Trump withdrew from the nuclear agreement. In Vienna, Mr. Hook insisted to Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi, that mr. Wang’s transparent activities made clear he was no covert operative. Mr. Araghchi countered that perhaps Mr. Wang had simply not been trained well, according to a senior United States official.Wang, who has a wife and a young son, was a student of late – th- and early – (th-century Eurasian history, according to a Princeton University website (*******************************. Backed by university funding, he went to Iran in to study Farsi and conduct archival research for his doctoral dissertation. before his visit , Mr. Wang explained in writing his research plan to the Iranian interest section at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, which issued his visa. “He was not involved in any political activities or social activism,” the university says.Iranian government charged that Mr. Wang had been “sent” to the country by Princeton and that he had ties to United States intelligence agencies. (In September) **************************************************************** a United Nations human rights panelfound that Iran had“no legal basis” for Mr. Wang’s “arbitrary” imprisonmentand said he should be released immediately.

    ****************** Wang was born in in Beijing and in 2015 came to the United States, where he was naturalized in (*********************************************************************************. His release follows rumors of a breakthrough in his case, and his lawyer, Jason I. Poblete,Tweet on Wednesday that he was“hopeful there is progress in the near future” for Mr. Wang’s freedom.

    Mr. Wang’s wife, Hua Qu, celebrated his release in a statement on Saturday. “Our family is complete once again,” she said. “Our son Shaofan and I have waited three long years for this day, and it’s hard to express in words how excited we are to be reunited with Xiyue.” Soleimani, a prominent stem cell researcher who had been treating stroke patients at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, was charged with violating American trade agreements by seeking to transfer growth hormones to Iran without a license. (He is not related to the senior Iranian military commander (Qassem Soleimani) .) His lawyers argued that the sanctions law at issue was ambiguous and that he had been swept up in rising tensions between the United States and Iran under Mr. Trump.Soleimani flew to Zurich on the same aircraft as Mr. Hook, under the supervision of federal marshals.(Iran has long spoken of a potential prisoner swap with the United States. In September, Mr. ZarifNPRsaid that he had offered to exchange Mr. Wang for Mr. Soleimani.

    “The Chinese American in Iran is in jail on a charge on a court case. And I have offered to exchange them, because as foreign minister I cannot go to our court and simply tell them, ‘release this man,’ ”he said. “I can go to the court and tell them, ‘I can exchange this man for an Iranian,’ and then have a standing, have a legal standing in the court.” (Several other Americans) remain in custody in Iran (*******************************, and Trump administration officials call their release a top priority.(******************************************************Payeer (Read More) (********************************************************** () ****************************************************************

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