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Wife Appeals For Help To Free American Academic Held In Iran


This week an American graduate student from Princeton University marked his third anniversary in an Iranian prison. He's one of several Americans held there. His wife came to Washington to call on the Trump administration to do more to free him.

NPR's Michele Kelemen has the story.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Hua Qu says she's starting to feel powerless as her husband languishes in Iran's notorious Evin Prison and their son grows up without a father. She says Xiyue Wang is an academic, not a spy. He was in Iran with the foreign ministry's approval doing research on what she calls mundane manuscripts that were a century old. She says he was singled out because of his American citizenship.


HUA QU: These documents has nothing to do with any contemporary Iran politics, and they are certainly not confidential.

KELEMEN: Hua is able to speak with her husband a couple of times a week, and mostly, he asks for books.


QU: He's still a nerdy scholar. He asks me to mail big, thick scholarly books. And he's still learning languages. And it's all academic books.

KELEMEN: She told reporters at the National Press Club that she's appealing to China, her home country, to use its influence with Iran. And she'd like to see the U.S. do more, especially having watched how President Trump recently got involved in a case in Sweden to free rapper ASAP Rocky.


QU: I believe the ordeal of my husband and other unjust detention cases deserve the same level of attention.

KELEMEN: In the case of the rapper, President Trump sent his hostage envoy Robert O'Brien to Sweden. State Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus says O'Brien is also committed to the American detainees in Iran.


MORGAN ORTAGUS: Robert is constantly traveling and negotiating, working these countries. And this is something that's very personal to him, to get our American hostages back. It's something that's incredibly personal to the secretary and, of course, to the president. And that's why we have such a great track record of doing so.

And we are going to continue every day that we all draw breath here at the State Department to fight for our Americans to get them - to get our American hostages back.

KELEMEN: Lebanon recently helped free a U.S. green card holder, Nizar Zakka, from an Iranian jail. The State Department is still seeking the release of several Americans who U.S. officials say are being unjustly detained in Iran. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.