A Princeton grad student detained in Iran for three years on spying charges was freed and an imprisoned Iranian was released by Washington, officials announced Saturday.
Donald Trump said Chinese-American Xiyue Wang, 38, was returning to the United States. A short time earlier, Tehran announced the release of Iranian scientist Massoud Soleimani from the United States.
In a statement issued by the White House, Trump made no mention of the freeing of Soleimani but thanked the Swiss government for its help in negotiating Wang’s release three years after he was first detained.
Princeton grad student Xiyue Wang, (left), was released by Iran and Iranian scientist Massoud Soleimani, (right), was freed by the U.S. as part of a prisoner exchange between the nations
Xiyue Wang is pictured embracing United States Ambassador to Switzerland Ed McMullen shortly before flying home on Saturday to be reunited with his family
Xiyue Wang is pictured with U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook in Zurich
‘Freeing Americans held captive is of vital importance to my Administration, and we will continue to work hard to bring home all our citizens wrongfully held captive overseas,’ he said.
State news agency IRNA said Soleimani had been ‘freed moments ago after one year of illegal detention and was handed over to Iranian officials in Switzerland.’
‘Glad that Professor Massoud Soleimani and Mr. Xiyue Wang will be joining their families shortly,’ Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted.
‘Many thanks to all engaged, particularly the Swiss government,’ which has looked after US interests in Iran in the absence of diplomatic ties, Zarif added.
Switzerland represents U.S. diplomatic interests in Iran, since Washington and Tehran cut diplomatic ties shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran.
Hua Qu, Wang’s wife, welcomed her husband’s release.’Our family is complete once again. Our son Shaofan and I have waited three long years for this day and it´s hard to express in words how excited we are to be reunited with Xiyue,’ she said in a statement.
Wang, a U.S. citizen and Princeton University graduate student, was conducting dissertation research in Iran in 2016 when he was detained and accused by Iran of “spying under the cover of research
Wang’s wife Hua Qu had appealed for international cooperation to secure his release. The couple are pictured with their young son Shaofan shortly before he was detained
Hua Qu, Wang’s wife, welcomed her husband’s release and has consistently said he is innocent of the charges against him
Wang had been researching Iran’s Qajar dynasty when he was imprisoned in August 2016
‘We are thankful to everyone who helped make this happen.’
Wang, a U.S. citizen and Princeton University graduate student, was conducting dissertation research in Iran in 2016 when he was detained and accused by Iran of “spying under the cover of research,” an allegation his family and the university deny.
He was subsequently convicted on espionage charges and sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2017.He had been researching Iran’s Qajar dynasty when he was imprisoned in August 2016.
Efforts to free him and other Americans held in Iran have been complicated by increased tensions following the U.S. withdrawal last year from the 2015 nuclear agreement between the Iranian government and world powers.
The Islamic Republic News Agency reported that Wang was released based on ‘Islamic clemency.’
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a tweet that ‘we will not rest until we bring every American detained in Iran and around the world back home’ and welcomed the release of Xiyue Wang
A U.S. official told the Associated Press that Brian Hook, the U.S. special representative for Iran, accompanied Soleimani to Switzerland to make the exchange and Hook and Wang were now ‘en route to Landstuhl in Germany where Wang will be examined by doctors.’
It said Wang was expected to stay in Germany for several days. Landstuhl is home to an American military medical centre.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a tweet that he was ‘pleased that the Iranian government has been constructive in this matter.’ He added ‘we will not rest until we bring every American detained in Iran and around the world back home.’
Earlier this year Hua Qu said her husband’s imprisonment in Iran has affected the entire family. Their son, who was 3 years old when his father was taken into custody, had struggled with his absence.
Hua said Wang was confined with about 25 cellmates, finding comfort reading the same type of 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.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, (left), tweeted that he was glad Iranian scientist Massoud Soleimani, (right), was freed by U.S. authorities. The two are pictured sitting inside an airplane at an undisclosed airport in Switzerland on Saturday
Soleimani, a stem cell expert, was arrested at Chicago airport in October 2018 for allegedly attempting to export biological materials to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme
She had said: ‘My husband and our family have become innocent victims in an apparently ever-intensifying quarrel between world powers. 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.
Soleimani, a stem cell expert, was arrested at Chicago airport in October 2018 for allegedly attempting to export biological materials to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme.
Washington has demanded Iran release the Americans it is holding, including father and son Siamak and Baquer Namazi; Michael R. White, a Navy veteran imprisoned last year, and Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent missing since 2007.
Several dozen Iranians are being held in U.S. prisons, many of them for breaking sanctions.
Tensions have heightened between Iran and the United States since Trump last year pulled Washington out of a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers and reimposed sanctions that have crippled Tehran’s economy.
In return, Iran has gradually scaled back its commitments to the agreement.