The Washington Post

Bri­tish Aus­tralian re­leased by Iran

Aca­demic freed in prisoner swap had been held since 2018

- BY MIRIAM BERGER miriam.berger@wash­post.com

beirut — Iran on Wed­nes­day re­leased a Bri­tish Aus­tralian aca­demic who was tried in se­cret two years ago and sen­tenced to 10 years in jail for crimes she said she never com­mit­ted.

Kylie Moore- Gil­bert, one of the most high-pro­file Western pris­on­ers held by Iran, was freed in ex­change for three Ira­nian ci­ti­zens de­tained abroad, ac­cord­ing to Ira­nian me­dia.

Moore- Gil­bert, 33, a Mel­bourne Univer­sity lec­turer in Mid­dle Eastern stud­ies, was de­tained at the Tehran air­port in 2018 and charged with spy­ing af­ter at­tend­ing an aca­demic con­fer­ence in Iran. She strongly de­nied the charges and went on re­peated hunger strikes to protest her im­pris­on­ment.

In­ter­na­tional pres­sure had been grow­ing for her re­lease. This sum­mer she was tem­po­rar­ily trans­ferred from Iran’s no­to­ri­ous Evin prison to an­other feared fa­cil­ity, the Qar­chak women’s prison, amid con­cerns over coro­n­avirus out­breaks in over­crowded jails.

Hu­man rights groups ac­cused Iran of hold­ing Moore- Gil­bert — in ad­di­tion to at least half a dozen other for­eign na­tion­als and dual ci­ti­zens — as a bar­gain­ing chip. In a let­ter to Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son last year, Moore- Gil­bert ac­cused Ira­nian au­thor­i­ties of try­ing to “ex­tort me both per­son­ally and my gov­ern­ment” by keep­ing her de­tained. Iran has de­nied the al­le­ga­tions.

Ira­nian state tele­vi­sion re­leased footage Wed­nes­day of Moore- Gil­bert in a gray head cover­ing at what ap­peared to be Mehrabad In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Tehran, ac­cord­ing to the As­so­ci­ated Press. Footage later showed her be­ing es­corted to a van. The same re­port aired footage of what ap­peared to be the three Ira­ni­ans re­leased in ex­change. Iran’s deputy for­eign min­is­ter, Ab­bas Araghchi, greeted the three men, who had Ira­nian flags draped over them and caps pulled down to cover their faces, the AP re­ported.

Ira­nian re­ports pro­vided few de­tails about the three men, whom the semiof­fi­cial news agency Fars de­scribed as “an eco­nomic ac­tivist and two Ira­nian na­tion­als de­tained abroad on trumped-up charges.” The re­port called MooreGil­bert “a Zion­ist spy.”

Kate Allen, direc­tor of Amnesty In­ter­na­tional UK, called the news of Moore- Gil­bert’s re­lease “an enor­mous re­lief ” and sug­gested there may be rea­son for op­ti­mism about de­tainees. “There may now be re­newed grounds for hop­ing that Uk-ira­nian dual-na­tion­als like Nazanin Zaghari-rat­cliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori will also be re­leased from their un­just jail terms in Iran in the com­ing days or weeks,” she said in a state­ment.

Karim Sad­jad­pour, a se­nior fel­low at the D.c.-based Carnegie En­dow­ment for In­ter­na­tional Peace, tweeted that Moore- Gil­bert’s re­lease re­flected how “Iran has 2 par­al­lel regimes work­ing in con­cert: Those w/ power take hostages, build nu­clear pro­grams, sup­port re­gional mili­tias, carry out as­sas­si­na­tions, and are in­ac­ces­si­ble to Western of­fi­cials. Those w/o real power deny these ac­tiv­i­ties and are ac­ces­si­ble to Western of­fi­cials.”

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