Five years ago today, Xiyue Wang was unjustly detained in Iran while conducting research there for his Ph.D. dissertation. We and others at Covington were honored to participate in the global advocacy campaign that culminated in Mr. Wang’s release in December 2019. Here, for the first time publicly, we discuss our work on his case.
In the summer of 2016, Mr. Wang visited Iran to study Farsi and conduct archival research for his history Ph.D. dissertation at Princeton University. On August 7, 2016, Iranian authorities arrested and imprisoned Mr. Wang in the notorious Evin Prison. Although his work was scholarly in nature, and the documents to which he sought access were over a hundred years old and not confidential or classified, Mr. Wang was sentenced in the summer of 2017 to ten years in prison based on spurious allegations of espionage. Indeed, Mr. Wang later recounted how his captors told him bluntly that as an American, he provided leverage in efforts to secure a “deal” with the United States.
Covington provided a range of support on a pro bono basis to Mr. Wang and his wife Hua Qu. Our team, which included Al Larson, Peter Flanagan, Tim Stratford, and Elaine Wang, advised Ms. Qu regarding engagement with the media and other stakeholders. We also raised Mr. Wang’s case in meetings with senior U.S. and Chinese government officials; Ms. Qu and their son are Chinese nationals, while Mr. Wang was born in China and is a naturalized U.S. citizen. Working with key officials, we also pressed Mr. Wang’s case and explored solutions in the final stages of negotiation between the U.S. and the Iranian governments.
Mr. Wang was released on December 7, 2019, and reunited with his family in the United States. Mr. Wang is now a Jeane Kirkpatrick Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. His writings about his experience in Iran and U.S.-Iran relations have been widely published.
Today, we remember the arduous road to freedom that Mr. Wang traversed, celebrate his family’s fortitude and perseverance, and look forward to continuing Covington’s proud tradition of seeking justice for pro bono clients in the most challenging of matters.