‘I beg you to act faster’: British-Australian academic jailed in Iran urges Scott Morrison to intervene

Chris Baynes
Kylie Moore-Gilbert said she has been on hunger strike five times since her arrest in Iran: Centre for Human Rights in Iran
Kylie Moore-Gilbert said she has been on hunger strike five times since her arrest in Iran: Centre for Human Rights in Iran

A British-Australian academic has begged Scott Morrison to help secure her release from an Iranian prison, where she faces a decade behind bars over a “ludicrous” spying charge.

Kylie Moore-Gilbert, a Cambridge University graduate who published work on the 2011 Arab Spring and authoritarian governments, pleaded with the Australian prime minister to take “immediate action” to free her from Tehran’s notorious Evin jail.

The academic, a lecturer in Islamic studies at Melbourne University, was arrested as she visited the Iranian capital in September 2018.

In letters smuggled out of prison and passed to the US-based Centre for Human Rights in Iran, Dr Moore-Gilbert said she had travelled to the Middle Eastern country to take part in a university programme and conduct research interviews.

“Unfortunately, one of my academic colleagues on this program and one of my interview subjects flagged me as suspicious to the Revolutionary Guards,” she wrote in her first letter to the Australian PM in June last year.

She was sentenced to 10 years in prison for “the ludicrous and wholly unsubstantiated charge of espionage,” said Dr Moore-Gilbert, adding her court appeal had been rejected.

“I beg you to act faster to bring this terrible trauma that myself and my family must live through day after day to a resolution,” the academic told Mr Morrison.

In a follow-up letter in December, she she faced “intolerable conditions” in prison and had gone on hunger strike five times.

“Over the past 9 months I have been completely banned from any contact with my family, with the exception of a 3 minute phone call (all with my father), which was only granted after I took desperate measures which put my own life at risk,” the academic wrote.

She added: “I beg of you, Prime Minister Morrison, to take immediate action, as my physical and mental health continues to deteriorate with every additional day that I remain imprisoned in these conditions.”

Asked by reporters about Dr Moore-Gilbert last month, Mr Morrison said his government was “doing everything that we can do bring her home”. He said he was concerned for her welfare “as I am for any Australian who finds themselves in these types of situations”.

Iran’s foreign ministry has said it will not “give in to the political and smear campaigns” over the imprisonment of the academic, who is one of several Britons jailed in the country on disputed spying charges.

Charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and businessman Anoosheh Ashoori, both British-Iranian nationals, are currently serving five and 10-year sentences respectively in Evin prison.

In October, the Australian government secured the release of British-Australian blogger Jolie King and her Australian boyfriend, Mark Firkin, three months after they were arrested in Iran for allegedly flying a drone illegally.

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British-Australian academic detained in notorious Iranian jail