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Detaining U.S. Citizens and Other Foreign Nationals


Xiyue Wang and his family

“Detaining political prisoners is one of the worst human rights abuses a country can do.”

Iranian authorities have reportedly sentenced another American citizen to a ten year prison term on charges of espionage.

A spokesman for Iran’s judiciary, Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi made the announcement on July 16th. The Iranian judiciary’s news site Mizan later identified the American as Xiyue Wang, a Princeton University graduate student who was born in Beijing. Princeton University said the student had been doing historical research for his doctoral dissertation about Iran’s late Qajar dynasty, and that he had been arrested months ago.

The imprisonment and conviction of U.S. citizens and other foreign nationals falsely accused of crimes against national security have been an ongoing and dangerous trend in Iran.

Despite hopes that the nuclear deal -- the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, agreed to by Iran , the EU, and the P5 +1 countries in 2015 -- would induce Iran to become a more responsible member of the international community, Iran has continued to engage in malign activity, including the arrest and imprisonment of U.S. citizens and other foreign nationals. In 2016, Iranian American businessman Siamak Namazi was sentenced to 10 years in prison for espionage; his eighty year-old Iranian American father, Baquer, who had traveled to Iran to help his son after his arrest, was also sentenced to ten years for the same crime.

More victims of such unlawful behavior include Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe, an Iranian-British national, who worked for the charitable arm of Thompson Reuters, and was sentenced to five years for purported security crimes; as well as free and open internet advocate Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese national and U.S. permanent resident, sentenced to prison for 10 years. These U.S. citizens and foreign nationals held by Iran vehemently protest their innocence.

According to U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, “detaining political prisoners is one of the worst human rights abuses a country can do.” As she suggests, no country which engages in such behavior can “have any credibility in the world.”

The United States calls on the Iranian government to release all individuals unjustly held in Iran, including U.S. citizens and foreign nationals, and allow them to reunite with their families.

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