Families wonder how Iran decision will impact U.S. detainees

This 2009 handout photo released by a friend of Xiyue Wang shows Xiyue Wang at his apartment in Hong Kong, China. Princeton University professor Stephen Kotkin, who advised Wang, a Chinese-American researcher sentenced to prison in Iran, defended his former student as innocent of all charges against him. Kotkin told The Associated Press by email that Xiyue Wang is a

This 2009 handout photo released by a friend of Xiyue Wang shows Xiyue Wang at his apartment in Hong Kong, China. Princeton University professor Stephen Kotkin, who advised Wang, a Chinese-American researcher sentenced to prison in Iran, defended his former student as innocent of all charges against him. Kotkin told The Associated Press by email that Xiyue Wang is a "remarkable, linguistically gifted graduate student" who studied governance in 19th and early 20th century Muslim regions. (Friend of Xiyue Wang via AP)

Families of several Americans currently detained in Iran are hoping President Donald Trump’s decision announced on Tuesday to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal will not make it harder to get their loved ones freed.

At least five Iranians, all dual-American citizens or green-card holders, have been sentenced to prison in Iran on espionage-related charges, as has Chinese-American Xiyue Wang, a Princeton University graduate student in history.

Wang’s wife Hua Qu said her family did not want to be in the middle of the dispute over the nuclear deal, calling it “a humanitarian issue for our family.”

“My hope is to be reunited soon with my husband, the father of our child,” she said. “We urge the American, European, Chinese, Russian, and Iranian governments to find a humanitarian solution, clemency or otherwise, to help bring Xiyue home.”

She said their lives have been very difficult since her husband was detained in August 2016. She’s concerned Wang, 37, may go on a third hunger strike while being held as the only non-Iranian in the prison where he is incarcerated. Their son is now 5.

The family of Bob Levinson, who disappeared from an Iranian island in March 2007, issued a statement that said Trump’s announcement should mean Levinson’s return “needs to be a priority in any new negotiations with Iran.”

Levinson’s son David told The Associated Press on Tuesday that although the family isn’t political and has no opinion on the Iran deal, “we do hope what this initiates and what it sparks is a renewed conversation about Bob Levinson, and that in the future in any negotiation between Iran and the United States that he becomes a priority and is at the forefront of any discussions.”

He added, “If our administration believes in America first, they can make a strong statement and a strong step in the right direction by advocating for the release and return of an American citizen.”

For years, U.S. officials said Levinson had been working for a private firm, but The Associated Press reported in December 2013 that he had actually been on a mission for CIA analysts who were not authorized to run spy missions.

Photos and videos released in 2010-11 showed a gaunt and bearded Levinson wearing an orange jumpsuit.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif said last month the U.S. government would have to change its attitude and engage in a respectful way before meaningful negotiations can take place. Zarif said Iran could be open to discussing a prisoner release if Washington’s approach changed, particularly if it is on health or humanitarian grounds.

One of the prisoners, 81-year-old Baquer Namazi, is said to be in poor health.


Associated Press writer Josh Replogle in Orlando, Florida, contributed to this story.

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