The Washington Post
British Australian released by Iran
Academic freed in prisoner swap had been held since 2018
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.”