Freed academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert has paid tribute to her family, friends and colleagues who campaigned for her release while she was held in Iranian prisons for more than two years.
After 804 days in prison on espionage charges widely dismissed as baseless, Moore-Gilbert was released last week in a complex and dramatic prisoner swap for three convicted Iranian bombers in prison in Thailand.
Through the Twitter account of a campaign group, Moore-Gilbert posted: “I honestly do not know where to start or how I can ever thank you for all of your incredible efforts to campaign for my release.
“I am totally blown away by everything you have done for me, I honestly have no words to express the depth of my gratitude and how touched I am. I can’t tell you how heartening it was to hear that my friends and colleagues were speaking up and hadn’t forgotten me, it gave me so much hope and strength to endure what had seemed like a never-ending, unrelenting nightmare.
“My freedom truly is your victory. From the bottom of my heart, thank you!”
Moore-Gilbert also posted a photo of herself at Doha Airport during her return to Australia. She was flown out of Tehran on a government jet and is currently in quarantine, having arrived in Canberra late on Friday.
A dual UK-Australian citizen, Moore-Gilbert, who is a lecturer in Islamic Studies at the University of Melbourne, was arrested in Tehran in September 2018 as she sought to leave the country after attending an academic conference in Qom.
She was sent to Tehran’s notorious Evin prison – held by the Revolutionary Guards in the secretive Ward 2A – and sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment on espionage charges in a secret trial. The Iranian government claimed she was a spy working for Israel, the country of her husband’s nationality.
Moore-Gilbert has consistently denied the charges against her, the Australian government has dismissed them as “baseless”, and no evidence has ever been publicly presented of her alleged crimes.
Moore-Gilbert went on repeated hunger strikes in prison and her health deteriorated during long stretches in solitary confinement.
In recent months, she was transferred to the remote Qarchak prison, east of Tehran, as fears escalated over the spread of the coronavirus in the country’s overcrowded prisons.
Leaving Iran last week, Moore-Gilbert said it was bittersweet to depart, despite the injustices she was 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.
“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 showed footage of the three men Moore-Gilbert was swapped for receiving garlands of flowers, draped in the national flag, on their return to Iran.
The three were involved in a calamitous bombing attack in Bangkok in February 2012 that aimed to kill Israeli diplomats but succeeded only in blowing up their own rented apartment and injuring five people. All three were in prison in Thailand.
Australia has refused to confirm the prisoner swap that saw Moore-Gilbert freed.