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PoliticsMiddle East

Academic freed by Iran describes 'traumatic ordeal'

November 26, 2020

Iran has freed a British-Australian academic accused of spying in an apparent prisoner swap. The 33-year-old said she had 'bittersweet feelings' leaving Iran, despite having spent two years in a notorious prison.

Kylie Moore-Gilbert after her release
Image: Iranian State Television/AP/dpa/picture alliance

A British-Australian academic who spent two years in a notorious Iranian jail after being accused of spying spoke on Thursday of her "long and traumatic ordeal."

Kylie Moore-Gilbert thanked Australia for "working tirelessly" to free her.

"It is with bittersweet feelings that I depart your country, despite the injustices which I have been subjected to," she said in a statement. "I came to Iran as a friend and with friendly intentions and depart Iran with those sentiments not only still intact, but strengthened."

Iranian state media said Moore-Gilbert had been released as part of a prisoner swap.

Thailand said on Thursday it had returned three Iranians jailed over a 2012 bomb plot in Bangkok.

But Thai officials did not explicitly link the tranfers with Moore-Gilbert's release.

Speaking at a press conference, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison only confirmed that Australia had not released any prisoners.

He added that he had spoken to Moore-Gilbert and confirmed she would receive health and psychological support on her return.

"She is an amazing Australian who has gone through an ordeal that we can only imagine, and it will be a tough transition for her," he told reporters.

Why was Kylie Moore-Gilbert in prison in Iran?

Authorities arrested the 33-year-old Melbourne University lecturer in September 2018 at Tehran airport.

Judges, in a secret trial, then convicted her of espionage. She consistently denied the charges.

Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert during a 2017 TV appearance in Australia.
Moore-Gilbert spoke of her 'long and traumatic ordeal'.Image: Reuters/THE MODERN MIDDLE EAST

Moore-Gilbert served a jail term at Tehran's Evin prison that is renowned for its inhuman conditions and the use of torture is widespread.

Over the summer, she was transferred to the remote Qarchak Prison, east of Tehran, as fears escalated over the spread of the coronavirus at Evin.

International pressure had been building on Iran to release Moore-Gilbert. She went on repeated hunger strikes and her health deteriorated during long stretches in solitary confinement.

Evin prison in Tehran
The notorious Evin prison in TehranImage: dpa/picture-alliance

Political prisoners in Iran

Iran has detained a number of foreign nationals and Iranian dual citizens in recent years, many of them on spying charges.

Human rights groups say Tehran uses their cases as leverage to try to gain concessions from other countries.

British-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was jailed on spying charges in 2016. She has always maintained her innocence.

jf/rt (AP, AFP, Reuters)