Chinese-American sentenced to 10 years in Iran on spying charges

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A Chinese-American graduate student at Princeton sentenced to 10 years in prison in Iran for allegedly "infiltrating" the country and sending confidential material overseas is innocent of all charges against him, his professor said Monday.

Mizan Online, a news agency affiliated to the Iranian judiciary, later identified the detained man as Xiyue Wang, a 37-year-old, Chinese-born researcher at Princeton University.

He gave no other details about the Iranian-American, including the gender, the arrest and the dates of the trial.

Mizan said he was part of "an infiltration project" aimed at gathering "highly confidential articles" for US and British institutions, including Princeton, the US State Department, Harvard's Kennedy School and the British Institute for Persian Studies.

Mohseni-Eje'i said Wang entered the country "through a special connection but the ministry of intelligence identified him and arrested him".

The U.S. State Department accused Iran of fabricating national security-related charges to detain Americans and other foreigners.

It has been working with Wang's family, the USA government, lawyers and others to secure his release, it said, adding that it hopes he will be released on appeal.

A Princeton University graduate student doing research in Iran was sentenced in that country to 10 years in prison for what the Iranian government claimed was spying for the United States.

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In a statement, the department of State confirmed that "to be aware of information regarding Xiyue Wang, a u.s. citizen detained in Iran", a formulation that is generally interpreted as a confirmation.

This case adds to a long list of American citizens, mostly Iranian-American dual nationals that have been imprisoned in Iran over the years on similar charges, many of them remain in Iranian prisons.

"The safety and security of USA citizens remains a top priority", the spokesman said. The documents he accessed were roughly 100 years old, the professor said.

The US had so far made no public comment on the issue.

In the same announcement Sunday, Mohseni-Ejei said Hossein Fereydoun, the brother of Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, has been sent to prison on Sunday over charges of "financial irregularities". The administration is expected to approve the waiver, despite an internal debate on how to respond to Iran's human rights abuses and support for militant groups such as Hezbollah.

A judiciary spokesman announced the United States dual national will spend a decade behind bars after the sentence was handed down during the latest case of dual nationals held on security charges in the country.

The deal was unpopular with Iranian hard-liners, whose influence runs deep within the judiciary.

Morello reported from Washington.

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