Washington state delegation calls for release of UW alum imprisoned in Iran

Washington's Democratic congressional delegation is calling on President Trump to help secure the release of a University of Washington graduate who's been imprisoned in Iran for three years.

Xiyue Wang is a Princeton Ph.D. student who was doing historical research for his dissertation when he was arrested in Iran in 2016.

He was convicted of espionage and sentenced to 10 years in an Iranian prison.

Now, both senators from Washington, along with Washington state's seven Democratic members of Congress, have sent a letter to the president asking him to ramp up efforts to bring Wang home.

"The United States has the obligation to use every legal and diplomatic tool available to bring him home," the letter states. "We urge you to immediately resume direct and consistent diplomatic dialogue and take action to bring Mr. Wang home to his wife and six-year-old child."

“Xiyue Wang is a remarkable, linguistically gifted graduate student,” Princeton University professor Stephen Kotkin, who has served as Wang’s doctoral adviser, told The Associated Press in 2017. “He is innocent of all the charges.”

An article posted on Mizan Online, a website affiliated with Iran’s judiciary, said 37-year-old Wang was born in Beijing and is a dual national of the United States and China.

Wang was arrested on Aug. 8, 2016 and is accused of passing confidential information about Iran to the U.S. 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, Mizan Online said.

It alleged he scanned some 4,500 pages of digital documents, paid thousands of dollars to access archives he needed and sought access to confidential areas of Tehran libraries.

"He did not engage in any political activities or social activism and has no connections to U.S. government or intelligence agencies," the Washington Congress members state in their letter. "In fact, the documents he was asking for were neither classified nor related to contemporary politics."

He was arrested while conducting research on the Qajar dynasty that once ruled Iran for his doctorate in late 19th and early 20th century Eurasian history, according to Princeton.

He was expecting to continue his research in Russia and needed to get as much work done in Iran as he could before taking up a fellowship there, Kotkin said.

That included scanning large volumes of documents that he could access later — something Kotkin described as “normal, standard scholarly practice.” The documents he accessed were roughly 100 years old, the professor said.

“We saw nothing out of the ordinary on anything that he undertook or did,” Kotkin said. “He’s a graduate student in good standing.”

The delegation said in their letter that Wang's health has declined over the past three years.

"Mr. Wang has faced multiple ailments ... ranging from skin rashes and migraines to arthritis in his knee," the letter states.