Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert, an Australian academic serving a 10-year prison sentence in Iran for espionage, has been transferred to one of the worst women’s prisons in the world.
The Australian government has confirmed Moore-Gilbert was moved to the notorious Qarchak women’s prison, located in the desert south-east of Tehran.
The Cambridge educated academic, who worked as a lecturer in Islamic studies at Melbourne University, had been held in Tehran’s Evin Prison for nearly two years and was transferred to Qarchak four days ago.
The desert prison has a reputation for its harsh conditions, overcrowding and violence. There have also been reports it is stricken with coronavirus cases.
A spokesperson from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said Moore-Gilbert’s case is one of the federal government’s highest priorities.
“We are urgently seeking further consular access to her at this new location,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
“We hold Iran responsible for Dr Moore-Gilbert’s safety and well-being.
“Our Ambassador to Iran recently visited Dr Moore-Gilbert in Evin Prison, and she has had telephone contact with her family and the ambassador over the last several months.”
Moore-Gilbert was arrested in September 2018 after attending an academic conference in Qom, which she had been invited to speak at. She was later convicted of espionage in a secret trial and given a sentence of 10 years. She has denied the charges and has appealed without success.
Last month, the US Department of State listed Qarchak Prison as “responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights”. It is controlled by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Hadi Ghaemi, head of the Centre for Human Rights in Iran, told the ABC’s RN Breakfast program her transfer was “done in complete darkness, nobody was informed of it who should have been, including lawyers and anyone else following her case in Iran including the embassy.”
“It is another example of cruel and unprecedented treatment by Kylie’s captors towards her…all I can imagine is they are really hellbent on punishing her for whatever reason.”
Ghaemi says he does not see enough being done by the Australian government to secure her release. He says there is nothing to show for the government’s tactic of “quiet diplomacy”.
“Kylie really feels abandoned,” he said. “Right now, showing solidarity and the fact that we’re thinking of her is the most important thing to preserve her psychological state of mind.”