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US threatens Iran with 'serious consequences' if American citizens not released

By Rudaw 22/7/2017
US threatens Iran with 'serious consequences' if American citizens not released
US President Donald Trump speaks at the White House in Washington, DC, on July 21, 2017. Photo: AFP /Jim Watson

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Washington is threatening Iran over its detention of US citizens unless they are released and returned to America.

Iran will face “new and serious consequences” US President Donald Trump said in a statement published by the White House  on Friday, unless all US citizens who were detained unjustly are released and returned to America. 

The statement came just days after Mizan Online, a website affiliated with the Iranian judiciary, published information about a Chinese-American man, identified as Xiyue Wang, who was sentenced to ten years in prison for espionage.

Wang, 37, was a PhD student at Princeton University who was arrested in August of last year in Iran for the purpose of researching Persian history for his doctoral thesis.

Tehran accused Wang of passing confidential information about Iran to the U.S. State Department, Princeton's Sharmin and Bijan Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies, the Harvard Kennedy School and the British Institute of Persian Studies, according to Mizan. It alleged he recorded some 4,500 pages of digital documents.

After Trump warned the Iranian government of “serious consequences” if US citizens were not released and returned to America, he urged the Iranian government to return a former American law enforcement officer Robert Levinson, who disappeared in Iran more than 10 years ago.

Levinson previously worked for the Drug Enforcement Administration for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). He disappeared on March 9, 2007 while supposedly researching a cigarette smuggling case. The Iranian government has repeatedly denied any involvement in his disappearance and many US government officials believe Levinson is probably dead.

If alive, however, he will be the longest held detainee in American history.

Trump also requested the release of Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi along with his elderly father Baquer who holds dual citizenship.

Each of them had been sentenced to 10 years in prison and fined $4.8 million after being detained for more than a year. They were sentenced to prison allegedly for “espionage and collaboration with the American government,” The New York Times reported on October 18 of last year, based on a news release from Mizan.

The U.S. does not maintain formal diplomatic relations with Tehran and warns its citizens traveling there that they risk arrest or being barred from leaving Iran.
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