Published: Sun, December 08, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Iran Releases Princeton Student Xiyue Wang After Three-Year Detainment

Iran Releases Princeton Student Xiyue Wang After Three-Year Detainment

The United States and Iran each freed a prisoner on Saturday in a rare act of cooperation between two longtime foes whose ties have worsened since President Donald Trump took office.

An American graduate student who was held in an Iranian prison for more than three years was finally headed home Saturday after a prisoner swap between the two countries.

"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", Zarif tweeted.

"There's been absolutely no payment of cash or lifting of sanctions or any sort of concessions or ransom in any of these cases, and certainly not with respect to Mr. Wang", the official said.

The White House put out a statement acknowledging that "Mr. Wang had been held under the pretense of espionage since August 2016" and thanking "our Swiss partners for their assistance in negotiating Mr. Wang's release with Iran".

Both the United States and Iranians offered praise to Switzerland who had been acting as intermediaries during negotiations. "We are thankful to everyone who helped make this happen", she said.

The swap comes amid growing tensions between Iran and the USA and its allies in the Gulf.

The White House and the U.S. Embassy in Switzerland issued statements welcoming Wang home.

Wang appeared to be in good health and humor, he said.

The prisoner exchange came after weeks of negotiations, a senior U.S. official told reporters on Saturday. USA officials have repeatedly denied the Princeton graduate student had any intelligence ties and said he was arrested on "fabricated national-security related charges". He was convicted of espionage and sentenced to 10 years in an Iranian prison.

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Efforts to free him and other Americans held in Iran have been complicated by increased tensions following the USA withdrawal previous year from the 2015 nuclear agreement between the Iranian government and world powers.

Tensions have heightened between Iran and the United States since Trump past year pulled Washington out of a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers and reimposed sanctions that have crippled Tehran's economy.

Iran's state news agency IRNA said Mr. Soleimani had been "freed moments ago after one year of illegal detention and was handed over to Iranian officials in Switzerland".

At least five other Americans are known to be imprisoned or missing in Iran.

He went on to thank Swiss and Iranian leadership for their help in returning Wang home. According to Princeton University, prior to traveling to Iran, Wang sent letters to the Iranian Interest Section at the Pakistani embassy in Washington, D.C., which issued his visa.

Wang's wife Hua Qu had appealed for worldwide cooperation to secure his release.

In September, Negar Ghodskani, an Iranian woman sentenced in the United States for violating sanctions against Tehran was released and returned home after giving birth in custody.

"Our family is complete once again", she said in a separate statement. Iran has responded by gradually removing its commitments under the agreement. He was accompanying Wang to Germany, where physicians at a United States military base will check his physical condition. "Wang is expected to come to Washington, DC on Monday", said Zakka.

U.S. officials have accused Iran of keeping him as a bargaining chip to obtain freedom for Iranian prisoners held in United States jails and perhaps as leverage to get an easing of USA sanctions that have devastated the economy.

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