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Iran Sentences Princeton Graduate Student to 10 Years for Espionage

Updated: Mar 13, 2022

An Iranian court has sentenced an American graduate student to 10 years in prison for spying, the judiciary’s official news agency reported Sunday.

A spokesman for Iran’s judiciary who announced the case on Sunday did not name the person or give any details about when the sentence was passed, but said the person was a citizen of the United States and an unnamed country other than Iran.

“This person, who was gathering information and was directly guided by America, was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but the sentence can be appealed,” spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei said on state media.

Mizan, the Iranian judiciary’s official news site, later identified the American as Xiyue Wang, a 37-year-old historian from Princeton University who was born in Beijing.

Wang, a Chinese-born US citizen, was arrested last summer while conducting research in Iran for his doctoral dissertation. Fars, a semiofficial Iranian news agency, reported that Wang was “gathering secret and top secret [intelligence]” for the US State Department, Harvard Kennedy School, and the British Institute of Persian Studies. He was accused of “infiltrating Iran’s national archive and building a 4,500-page digital archive” for “the world’s biggest anti-Iran spying organization.”

The US State Department did not identify its jailed citizen, but accused Iran of fabricating national security-related charges to detain Americans and foreigners.

“We call for the immediate ­release of all US citizens unjustly detained in Iran so they can return to their families,” a State Department official said. “All US citizens, especially dual nationals, considering travel to Iran should ­carefully read our latest travel warning.”

Wang has 20 days to appeal the sentence against him.

“We were very distressed by the charges brought against him in connection with his scholarly activities, and by his subsequent conviction and sentence,” Princeton said in a statement after Wang’s sentencing. “His family and the university are . . . hopeful that he will be released after his case is heard by the appellate authorities in Tehran.”

Wang is the latest American to be arrested in Iran on espionage charges.

Endangered Scholars Worldwide is gravely concerned over the ongoing detention of Xiyue Wang. We call for letters, emails, and faxes respectfully urging authorities in Iran to investigate the situation; to ensure Wang's well-being while in custody; and to ensure that any charges or convictions related to Wang's peaceful exercise of protected human rights are lifted and that in the interim his case is addressed in a manner consistent with internationally recognized standards of due process, fair trial, and detention, in accordance with Iran’s obligations under international law.

Please consider writing to the following:

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

The Office of the Supreme Leader

Jomhouri St, Keshvar Doust Street


Islamic Republic of Iran

Fax: +98 21 644 11



Ayatollah Sadeqh Larijani

Howzeh Riyasat-e Qoveh Qazaiyeh (Office of the Head of the Judiciary)

Pasteur St., Vali Asr Ave., south of Serah-e Jomhouri


Islamic Republic of Iran

President Hassan Rouhani

The office of the President

Palestine Avenue, Azerbaijan Intersection


Islamic Republic of Iran

Javad Zarif, Minister of Foreign Affairs

Imam Khomeini Sq. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The Minister’s Office


Islamic Republic of Iran

Fax: +98 21 66743149




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