Iran frees Aussie-British scholar from detention in prisoner exchange


Australian-British academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert has been released from prison on Wednesday morning in exchange for three Iranian prisoners, after spending more than two years behind bars over allegations of espionage.

In a statement, Kylie Moore-Gilbert thanked those who had worked for her release and said that leaving Iran was “bittersweet”, after spending 804 days in prison.

Moore-Gilbert praised the people of Iran saying: “It is with bittersweet feelings that I depart your country, despite the injustices which I have been subjected to.”

“I have nothing but respect, love and admiration for the great nation of Iran and its warm-hearted, generous and brave people,” she said.

Moore-Gilbert thanked the Australian government, and in particular, diplomats in Australia’s embassy in Tehran “who have been working tirelessly these past two years and three months to secure my release”.

“Thank you also to all of you who have supported me and campaigned for my freedom, it has meant the world to me to have you behind me throughout what has been a long and traumatic ordeal.”

Moore-Gilbert’s family said they are “relieved and ecstatic” at her release. “We cannot convey the overwhelming happiness that each of us feel at this incredible news.”

Pictures released by the pictures released by the TV station IRIB showed the three released Iranians being greeted at an airport or hotel lounge by Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi.

Iran’s Mehr news agency reported: “Today, two years after Gilbert’s conviction, the Islamic Republic finally decided to exchange her with three Iranian economic activists who had been detained for trying to circumvent sanctions.”

On its Telegram channel, the Iranian semi-official news agency Fars said Moore-Gilbert was exchanged for “an economic activist and two Iranian nationals detained abroad on trumped-up charges”.

Cambridge-educated Moore-Gilbert was a Middle East scholar at the University of Melbourne. She was convicted in a secret trial and given a 10-year sentence for espionage after being arrested in September 2018 in Tehran, where she had attended a conference.

Iran claimed she had connections with MI6 and links with Jewish universities. It was also claimed she had been researching the Syrian opposition and Bahrain Shias.

In letters smuggled out of prison, Moore-Gilbert consistently denied the charges alleged against her.

“I am an innocent woman,” she wrote to prison authorities last year, “[and]have been imprisoned for a crime I have not committed and for which there is no real evidence.”

The release of Moore-Gilbert also raises hopes for the fate of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori, dual UK-Iranian nationals who have been held since 2016 and 2017 respectively.

Kate Allen, the director of Amnesty International UK, said: “We were always extremely concerned that Kylie was imprisoned solely for exercising her right to freedom of expression – including through her work as an academic – and it’s an enormous relief to hear of her release.

“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.” (Source: The Guardian)