Iranian authorities have denied the appeal of a Princeton University researcher who was convicted of spying for the United States and sentenced to 10 years in prison, the university said on August 17.
Xiyue Wang, a U.S. citizen and doctoral candidate specializing in Eurasian history, was conducting research for his dissertation in Iran last year when he was detained by Iranian authorities and accused of "spying under the cover of research." His family and the university strongly deny the charges.
"He traveled to Iran solely to study Farsi (Persian) and to examine historical documents from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He described his research plans in advance to the Iranian authorities and the libraries and archives he planned to visit, and he only sought access to materials that he needed for his dissertation," the university said.
The university said Iran's charge that Princeton had sent Wang to "infiltrate" the country and that Wang had "connections to intelligence agencies" is "completely false."
"He was not connected to any government or intelligence agencies," the university said. "We are distressed that his appeal was denied, and that he remains unjustly imprisoned."
News of Wang's detention in Iran and his 10-year sentence first came out last month. The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has taken a hard line against Iran and has warned against "unjustly" imprisoning Americans.
Trump "is prepared to impose new and serious consequences on Iran unless all unjustly imprisoned American citizens are released and returned," the White House said last month.
A State Department official on August 17 repeated the U.S. demand "for the immediate release of all U.S. citizens unjustly detained in Iran so they can return to their families."
Iran did not immediately respond or comment on the Wang case.
"I am devastated that my husband's appeal has been denied, and that he continues to be unjustly imprisoned in Iran on groundless accusations of espionage and collaboration with a hostile government against the Iranian state," Wang's wife, Hua Qu, said. "Our young son and I have not seen Xiyue in more than a year, and we miss him very much."
Qu, who is a Chinese citizen, said she worries about Wang's health while he is held in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison, sometimes in solitary confinement.
"We hope the Iranian officials can release him immediately so he can resume his studies at home and so that our family will be together again," she said.
With reporting by Reuters