Xiyue Wang, a Princeton graduate student who was wrongfully imprisoned by Iran’s regime between 2016-2019, says a fellow inmate was a Jew imprisoned for having stayed in Israel.
Wang told the Jerusalem Post that the man had travelled to Israel and been handed a ten-year sentence upon his return to Iran. He noted that the Jew revealed little about himself, save that he did not much enjoy his five-year stay in the Holy Land.
Wang, who is a Jeane Kirkpatrick fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, says that the Iranian government sometimes turns a blind eye to trips to Israel, which it considers a crime.
Iran’s regime freed imprisoned Iranian Jew Mashallah Pesar Kohan in December, after detaining him since 2017 for travelling to Israel, but this was a different prisoner.
Wang reported that he had shared a cell with Mohammad Heydari Kahkesh, an Iranian bodybuilder, who was imprisoned because he wanted to travel to Israel for a sporting event. Despite his claims that sports should be irrespective of borders, the bodybuilder was imprisoned for several years for doing so. Mohammed claimed he had even submitted a formal application for his trip, although this cannot be substantiated.
A web page for the group United Against a Nuclear Iran claims that Kahkesh was charged with “collaboration with foreign governments, Insulting the prophet, Insulting Islamic sanctities, propaganda against the state, and insulting the leader or the founder of the Islamic Republic.”
Kakhesh is reported to have taken an idealistic stance toward the governments animosity towards Israel, and attempted to travel there despite official opposition. When he voiced his views on the subject in a Persian-language television interview, he was transferred to a higher-security facility and prohibited from making phone calls.
Farahnaz Kohan, an Iranian Jewish woman who was arrested for her alleged visit to Israel was also released on a temporary basis.
According to Wang’s account, it was made clear to him that his sole crime was being an American citizen, and that he was mistreated, forced to confess to imagined crimes, and eventually released as part of a prisoner swap with the United States.
Persian-language searches revealed no Iranian media or other public information about any of the inmates. A request has been sent to the Israeli Foreign Ministry about the imprisoned Jew’s status in Israel.