In August 2016, Xiyue Wang was in Iran researching the country’s Qajar dynasty for his doctoral program at Princeton University.
Wang, 38, is a Chinese-born naturalized American citizen who was working toward his Ph.D. when he was arrested on charges of espionage by the Iranian government, NBC News reported. In April 2017, Wang was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in an Iranian prison. Months after Wang was convicted, Iran released video it claimed showed the U.S. graduate student smuggling documents. “Then-State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert explicitly denied Wang was working on behalf of any U.S. government agency,” NBC reported. Wang’s wife, Qu Hua, worked for years to secure her husband’s release.
On Saturday morning, multiple outlets reported that Wang would be returning home to his wife and studies.
“We thank our Swiss partners for their assistance in negotiating Mr. Wang’s release with Iran,” President Donald Trump said in a statement. “The highest priority of the United States is the safety and well-being of its citizens. 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.”
Wang’s wife told NBC back in November 2017 that her husband was suffering from depression while in prison. More from NBC:
He was also missing out on watching their son grow up, she said, having last seen the boy when he was only 2 years old.
“My son told his teacher that, ‘When I grow up, my daddy will come home.'”
After the news that he would do just that this weekend, Qu said in a statement that “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. We are thankful to everyone who helped make this happen,” she said.
Wang’s release was negotiated in exchange for Massoud Soleimani, an Iranian professor who was detained in Atlanta, Georgia, for allegedly violating U.S. sanctions. Bloomberg reported Soleimani “was arrested by U.S. authorities on charges he had violated trade sanctions by trying to have biological material brought to Iran.”
“He and his lawyers maintain his innocence, saying he seized on a former student’s plans to travel from the U.S. to Iran in September 2016 as a chance to get recombinant proteins used in his research for a fraction of the price he’d pay at home,” the outlet added.
A senior administration official told NBC that Wang was flown to Zurich from Tehran and met with U.S. Special Representative Brian Hook, who then accompanied him to Ramstein Air Base in Germany. The outlet reported that Wang “will undergo further evaluation at a local medical center before heading home.”
On Saturday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo praised the prisoner swap, saying, “The United States will not rest until we bring every American detained in Iran and around the world back home to their loved ones.”
“We thank the Swiss government for facilitating the return of Mr. Wang,” he added, “and are pleased that Tehran has been constructive in this matter.”
“We continue to call for the release of all U.S. citizens unjustly detained in Iran.”