By Lara Jakes
Source: The New York Times
The wife of an American held for three years in an Iranian prison appealed to President Trump on Thursday to help secure her husband’s release, invoking Mr. Trump’s recent assistance to another detainee navigating a foreign justice system: ASAP Rocky.
The wife, Hua Qu, said she has seen no progress on the case of her husband, Xiyue Wang, since the United States withdrew from a nuclear deal with Iran in May 2018. “My husband and our family have become innocent victims in an ever-intensifying quarrel between world powers,” Ms. Qu, a Chinese citizen, told reporters in Washington.
She urged the Trump administration to restart diplomatic talks with Tehran — if for no other reason than to help her husband and at least three other American citizens known to be detained in Iran.
Mr. Wang, a naturalized American citizen and Princeton University graduate student who traveled to Iran in 2016 for research, was convicted of espionage — a charge that his family and colleagues deny.
“Mr. Rocky just quickly got released after two days of intervention from Mr. President,” Ms. Qu said. “I believe the ordeal of my husband and other unjust detention cases deserve the same level of attention.”
Rocky was released from a Swedish jail earlier this month, pending a verdict in his assault trial, after Mr. Trump sent his international envoy for hostage affairs to Stockholm on the rapper’s behalf. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also weighed in through Swedish diplomats, and Mr. Trump used his Twitter feed to press the case for Rocky — an unlikely cause célèbre in Washington who came to the president’s attention through celebrities Kim Kardashian West and her husband, Kanye West.
By contrast, this week marked the third year of Mr. Wang’s imprisonment, which Ms. Qu was quick to point out was twice as long as the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis.
In May, United Nations officials demanded that Mr. Wang be released from his 10-year prison sentence on what they called Iran’s absurd espionage charges violating rights that should be protected under international laws.
Ms. Qu said she was largely dependent on Swiss diplomats acting as a go-between for the Iranian government and the State Department; the last such encounter occurred two months ago. She said she also appreciated help from the Chinese government — which is a trade partner with Iran — but gave no details on what that included.
She said she last discussed the case with the State Department last week, but said, “there has literally been no progress.”
In a statement on Thursday, the State Department cited Mr. Wang’s “wrongful detention” but did not respond to Ms. Qu’s request for diplomatic talks with Iran to resume.
“We again call on Iran to return Mr. Wang to his family,” the statement said. “We are determined to secure the release of all U.S. hostages and wrongful detainees. We will not rest until they are home.”
Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, offered in April to negotiate a prisoner exchange with the United States, which has charged or detained Iranian citizens accused of violating American sanctions.
But the already tenuous relations between the two countries plummeted in June, when Iran downed an unmanned American surveillance drone. Mr. Trump considered retaliating with a military strike against Iran but ultimately stepped back.
In the meantime, Ms. Qu said, her 6-year-old son is beginning to forget some of the times he shared as a toddler with his father. She last spoke to Mr. Wang by phone on Wednesday — a Chinese holiday that she described as the equivalent of Valentine’s Day. They spoke not of romance, she said, but of his enduring detention.
“We all know that nothing is impossible — all it takes is will,” Ms. Qu said in an appeal to the administration.
“My husband was criminalized only because of his American citizenship,” she said. “This must be resolved.”