Hua Qu, the wife of Xiyue Wang, a Princeton University graduate student being held at an Iranian prison, speaks at a news conference to mark the third anniversary of her husband's imprisonment, Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019, at the National Press Club in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Wife of US student held in Iran says husband 'not a spy'

August 08, 2019 - 11:28 am

WASHINGTON (AP) — The wife of a Princeton University graduate student imprisoned in Iran said Thursday her husband is not a spy and appealed for international cooperation to secure his release.

"I plead for the gates of mercy to be open for him, and I hope he can come back to us as soon as possible," Hua Qu said in a speech marking the third anniversary of her husband's detention.

Hua also said there have been no recent productive conversations between the United States and the Iranian government about Xiyue Wang, a Chinese-American history researcher who was sentenced to 10 years in prison after being convicted of "infiltrating" Iran and sending confidential material abroad.

"My husband and our family have become innocent victims in an apparently ever-intensifying quarrel between world powers," Hua said. "My husband is an academic researcher. He's a father, a husband. He is not a political figure, and he definitely is not a spy."

Efforts to free Wang and other Americans held in Iran have been complicated by increased tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Any productive dialogue that might once have occurred has stalled following the U.S. withdrawal last year from the 2015 nuclear agreement between the Iranian government and world powers.

While Iran's top diplomat has floated the idea of a prisoner swap, the U.S. government has simply called for the immediate release of all "innocent" Americans.

"This case will not be automatically resolved," Hua said. "They definitely need to come to the negotiating table and to speak to each other, to engage in a dialogue. "

Hua praised the efforts of Robert O'Brien, the State Department's special envoy for hostage affairs. But she said her husband should get the same level of attention from the government as that given to American rapper A$AP Rocky, who was freed from a Swedish jail last week pending a verdict in an assault case. The Trump administration dispatched O'Brien to monitor proceedings in that case.

"I believe the ordeal of my husband and other unjust detention cases deserve the same level of attention," Hua said.

Her husband's imprisonment in Iran has affected the entire family, she said. Their son, who was 3 years old when his father was taken into custody, is struggling with his absence. When they moved to a new apartment, the boy asked whether his father would be able to find them once he came out.

Hua said Wang is confined with about 25 cellmates, finding comfort reading the same academic texts he studied before his arrest. The books allow him to tune out the noises and smells of the jail, and allow him to temporarily envision himself back in his beloved Princeton library.

Hua said the last time she spoke with her husband was on Wednesday. He told her that he'd like to take her on a "nice vacation to heal" and recover from the ordeal of his confinement. "And I really look forward to the day," she said. "I haven't seen him for way too long."

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