Xiyue Wang, a naturalized American citizen from China, arrested in Iran last August while researching Persian history for his doctoral thesis at Princeton University, is shown with his wife and son in this family photo released in Princeton, New Jersey, U.S. on July 18, 2017. Courtesy Wang Family photo via Princeton University/Handout via REUTERS

BY REUTERS ON 9/16/17 – When Xiyue Wang sleeps in his cell in Iran’s Evin Prison, he sometimes dreams he is back at Princeton University, working in the school’s main library on his dissertation comparing governance systems in Central Asia.

When he wakes, Wang often does not immediately remember where he is, his wife, Hua Qu, said in her first extensive interview since his arrest in Iran about 13 months ago while doing doctoral research. The 36-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen, who was born in China, was convicted of espionage and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

“Sometimes I can’t even remember what he looks like,” she said on Saturday in the Princeton, New Jersey, apartment that she shares with their 4-year-old son, whose drawings adorn the walls. “It has been too long for me.”

The interview, along with a candlelight vigil on Friday night organized by Princeton students, marks a shift in strategy for those closest to Wang, whom colleagues described as a dedicated scholar, a selfless friend and a caring father with a gift for cooking.

For nearly a year Qu, Princeton and the Obama and Trump administrations kept Wang’s detention confidential in hopes of brokering a release on humanitarian grounds. The case became public when the Iran judiciary announced his sentence in July, three months after he was convicted at trial.

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