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Tehran swaps imprisoned Australian academic for three Iranians

Kylie Moore-Gilbert (Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Iranian state television says Tehran has released detained British-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who was serving a 10-year prison sentence for spying, in exchange for three Iranians held abroad.

“A businessman and two [other] Iranian nationals detained abroad on false accusations were freed in exchange for a spy with dual nationality working for” Israel, the broadcaster’s Iribnews website said, also identifying Moore-Gilbert by name.

Moore-Gilbert, a lecturer in Islamic studies at Melbourne University, was sent to Tehran’s Evin prison in September 2018 and sentenced to 10 years on widely criticized espionage charges.

International pressure on Iran to secure her release has grown in recent months following reports that her health was deteriorating in solitary confinement and that she had been transferred to Qarchak prison, east of Tehran.

Conditions at Qarchak have been described by former prisoners as abysmal, and reports indicated the jail has had a cluster of coronavirus cases.

In the past, a number of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience have claimed they had been “exiled” to Qarchak prison as punishment for not “cooperating” with the authorities.

In letters smuggled out of the prison and published in British media in January, Moore-Gilbert wrote she had rejected an offer to work with the intelligence branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).