US student held for 3 yrs. released in Iran-US hostage swap

Princeton graduate student Xiyue Wang is reuniting with his wife and son after being imprisoned for 3 yrs. in Iran on trumped-up charges.

Sara Rubenstein,

US Ambassador to Switzerland McMullen greets Xiyue Wang in Zurich
US Ambassador to Switzerland McMullen greets Xiyue Wang in Zurich

Princeton graduate student Xiyue Wang was released on Saturday after being held hostage by Iran for three years on trumped-charges of espionage.

Chinese-born Wang was swapped for Iranian scientist Massoud Soleimani, a stem cell scientist who was arrested in the US in 2018 and had been found guilty of conspiring and attempting to export biological matters in reference to human growth hormone.

A senior US official said that Wang is in "good spirits" and is currently in Germany for a medical evaluation at the US Army-operated Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

The hostage swap was negotiated through Switzerland since the US and Iran have not maintained diplomatic relations since 1980.

Wang immigrated to the United States with his mother, an American citizen, in 2001 and became a naturalized US citizen in 2009. In 2016, as a Princeton graduate student of late 19th and early 20th-century Eurasian history, he traveled to Tehran to conduct dissertation research at libraries in Iran. In August he was arrested, sent to Evin Prison and sentenced to ten years for "being a spy."

Meanwhile, Wang's wife, Hua Qu, left alone with their three-year-old son Shaofan, had to raise her son alone for three years, while working for a living and constantly advocating for her husband's release.

"He is in a very cramped underground cell with no natural light, living together with over 25 cellmates," Qu told CBS News in the past. "He is in the middle of a three-tiered bunk bed. He developed a series of medical conditions — stomach rashes, arthritis, especially arthritis in both of his knees."

On Saturday, Qu released a statement: "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."