Researcher freed from Iran urges release of other prisoners

U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland Edward McMullen greets Xiyue Wang in Zurich, Switzerland December 7, 2019. (Reuters)
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Updated 16 December 2019

Researcher freed from Iran urges release of other prisoners

  • Xiyue Wang and his wife, Hua Qu, said that the family is doing well and overjoyed by the support they have received
  • Wang was released on Dec. 7 as part of a prisoner exchange that saw America release a detained Iranian scientist

WASHINGTON: A Princeton University scholar who was freed from Iran this month after three years in captivity said Monday that his release “is a victory of humanity and diplomacy across nations and political differences."
Xiyue Wang and his wife, Hua Qu, said in a statement to The Associated Press that the family is doing well and overjoyed by the support they have received. They say their joy is tempered by the fact that other prisoners remain in Iran.
Wang was released on Dec. 7 as part of a prisoner exchange that saw America release a detained Iranian scientist. It was a rare diplomatic breakthrough between Tehran and Washington after months of tensions.
“Xiyue's release is a victory of humanity and diplomacy across nations and political differences," the couple said in a statement. "We urge world leaders to come together and find the compassion and common ground to free all political prisoners as soon as possible. Where there is a will, there is a way."
Wang, a Chinese-American academic, was arrested in Iran in 2016 while conducting research for a doctorate in late 19th- and early 20th-century Eurasian history, according to Princeton. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison there for allegedly “infiltrating” the country and sending confidential material abroad.
Wang's family and Princeton strongly denied the claims. The United Nations' Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said “there was no legal basis for the arrest and detention.”
The prisoner trade took place on the tarmac of a Swiss airport, and Wang and Qu on Monday thanked officials in both the United States and Switzerland for facilitating it.
He was freed in exchange for scientist Massoud Soleimani, who was accused in the U.S. of violating sanctions by trying to have biological material brought to Iran.
Multiple other hostages and detainees remain in Iran. They include Robert Levinson , a former FBI agent who vanished in Iran in 2007, as well as U.S. Navy veteran Michael White, who is serving a 10-year espionage sentence.


‘Disturbing’ allegations of rape in Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict: UN

Updated 22 January 2021

‘Disturbing’ allegations of rape in Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict: UN

  • A UN representative said she was greatly concerned by serious allegations from the northern region

ADDIS ABABA: The UN says it has received “disturbing” reports of sexual violence and abuse in Ethiopia’s conflict-hit Tigray region, including of individuals forced to rape members of their own family.
Pramila Patten, the UN’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict, said she was greatly concerned by serious allegations from the northern region, including “a high number of alleged rapes” in the Tigrayan capital Mekele.
“There are also disturbing reports of individuals allegedly forced to rape members of their own family, under threats of imminent violence,” Patten said in a statement Thursday.
“Some women have also reportedly been forced by military elements to have sex in exchange for basic commodities.”
Patten called on all parties involved in the hostilities to commit to a zero-tolerance policy for crimes of sexual violence.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, announced military operations in Tigray in early November, saying they came in response to attacks by the regional ruling party on federal army camps.
Abiy declared victory after federal forces entered the regional capital in late November, though leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) remain on the run and have vowed to fight on.
Thousands have died in the conflict, according to the International Crisis Group, though a communications blackout and media and humanitarian access restrictions have made it difficult to assess the situation on the ground.
In her statement Thursday, Patten noted that “medical centers have indicated an increase in the demand for emergency contraception and testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) which is often an indicator of sexual violence in conflict.”
She called for full humanitarian access to Tigray, including camps for displaced people “and refugee camps where new arrivals have allegedly reported cases of sexual violence.”
She voiced concern about “more than 5,000 Eritrean refugees in and around the area of Shire living in dire conditions, many of them reportedly sleeping in an open field with no water or food, as well as the more than 59,000 Ethiopians who have fled the country into neighboring Sudan.”
The caretaker administration in Tigray did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Earlier this month state television broadcast footage of a meeting during which an unidentified man in a military uniform expressed concern about rapes in Mekele.
“Why are women being raped in Mekele city?” the man said.
“It wouldn’t be shocking had it been happening during the war, because it is not manageable so it could be expected. But at this moment while federal police and local police are back in town, it is still happening.”