The Sunday Times

CHRISTMAS IN JAIL

ACADEMIC’S 10-YEAR IRANIAN SENTENCE APPEAL FAILS

- STEPHEN DRILL

AUSTRALIAN academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert, jailed in Iran’s notorious Evin prison, has lost an appeal against her 10-year sentence.

In a crushing blow, the University of Melbourne Middle East expert, left, will spend her second Christmas behind bars in solitary confinemen­t.

The Sunday Times has confirmed that Iranian authoritie­s rejected her freedom bid.

She remains in the Tehran jail where Iran’s feared Revolution­ary Guard keeps its political prisoners.

A source said that Dr Moore-Gilbert was getting “desperate”.

She managed to get a message out from the jail, telling the source: “Make sure this does not go unnoticed.”

Dr Moore-Gilbert was arrested in October 2018, charged with spying and sentenced to 10 years jail.

It is understood Dr Moore-Gilbert was invited to speak at a conference at the University of Qom, south of Tehran, before she was arrested.

Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert’s family have remained in close contact with the Australian Government.

In September, the family thanked the Government and the University of Melbourne for their support “at this distressin­g and sensitive time”. Australian video bloggers Jolie King and Mark Firkin, who were arrested in July for flying a drone in Iran, were released in October.

The decision against Dr Moore-Gilbert’s appeal was handed down in recent weeks and she remains in solitary confinemen­t in unit 2a in a 3m by 2m cell.

Prisoners in solitary confinemen­t are only given three blankets, one to use as a mattress, one for a pillow and one to keep them warm.

There is no natural light and sometimes lights are kept on all day.

In other cases, the guards have cut off other prisoners’ access to their loved ones and told them they had been abandoned in an effort to break their spirit.

Iran has been on a campaign of taking prisoners that can be used as bargaining chips in negotiatio­ns, as United States’ sanctions bite its economy.

Dr Moore-Gilbert, a dual UK national, went to high school at All Saints College in Bathurst, New South Wales, where she was dux.

She also completed a PhD at the University of Melbourne and attended Cambridge University in the UK and studied at Wolfson College.

The college’s website has comments from Dr Moore-Gilbert endorsing the course in the UK. “If you are considerin­g this trip — either with a focus on the Middle East or the Far East — I would really encourage you to give it a go, and as a mature undergradu­ate there really is nowhere quite like Wolfson,” she wrote.

Her University of Melbourne profile is still online, which describes her as a lecturer in Islamic studies.

When asked for comment this week, the University of Melbourne repeated a statement it made when news of Dr Moore-Gilbert’s arrest broke in September.

“The University of Melbourne has been and will continue to be in close contact with the Australian Government and Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert’s family,” it said.

“We believe that the best chance of securing Kylie’s safe return is through diplomatic channels. This is a sensitive matter and the university will not be providing further comment.”

It is unclear if Australian authoritie­s have been able to access Dr MooreGilbe­rt’s medical records to independen­tly review them.

DFAT would not comment. In September, Foreign Minister Marise Payne told Parliament repeated representa­tions had been made to senior Iranian officials in Tehran.

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