Iran has freed Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert, an Australian academic who has been detained in the country for more than two years.
Dr Moore-Gilbert, who was detained in Iran after being convicted of espionage – a charge she has consistently denied – was reportedly released in exchange for three Iranians held abroad.
On Thursday morning, Foreign Minister Marise Payne said she was “extremely pleased and relieved” to confirm Dr Moore-Gilbert’s release from detention and that she would soon be reunited with her family.
The Australian government has always rejected the grounds on which the Iranian Government arrested, detained, and convicted Dr Moore-Gilbert, Payne said in a statement.
“In full consultation with her family, Dr Moore-Gilbert’s release was achieved through diplomatic engagement with the Iranian Government,” Payne said.
“This outcome demonstrates the value of professional and determined work, in the most appropriate way for each case, to resolve complex and sensitive consular cases. I thank those dedicated officials and all others involved for their efforts.”
The FreeKylieMG group, a collection of friends and colleagues of Dr Moore-Gilbert who have campaigned for her release, said today “is a very bright day in Australia”, with an innocent woman finally free.
“But let’s be clear: This should never have happened. Kylie was held to ransom by the Iranian regime, which saw fit to take an innocent Australian woman hostage in order to bring its own convicted prisoners abroad home. It’s a despicable business model with incalculable human consequences,” the group said.
“We’d like to pay our respects to the other foreign nationals who remain imprisoned in Iran today under the same nefarious circumstances and call on their governments to do everything necessary to bring them home.”
We are over the moon that our amazing friend and colleague Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert is on her way home after 804 days in prison in Iran. An innocent woman is finally free. Today is a very bright day in Australia indeed! 1/— Free Kylie Moore-Gilbert (@FreeKylieMG) November 25, 2020
The group thanked the generosity of other hostage campaigns and NGOs for guidance, the international academic community, diplomats and members of the Australian parliament who used their voices to advocate for Dr Moore-Gilbert, and journalists who kept her story front of mind.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed he has spoken with Dr Moore-Gilbert and that she is on her way back to Australia.
“Last night I was advised that after more than two years of detention following her arrest, conviction and sentencing to ten years in prison by the Iranian Government, and following concerted and determined diplomatic effort by our Government and our officials, working closely together with her family and colleagues, Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert had finally been released and was safe with our Ambassador and our officials in Tehran,” Morrison said.
“Securing Dr Moore-Gilbert’s release has been an absolute high priority for our Government. We have always rejected her conviction and detention and I join with all Australians in praising Dr Moore-Gilbert and her family for their courage, strength and patience as we have all worked tirelessly together to secure her release.”
Dr Moore-Gilbert, who previously worked as a lecturer at Melbourne University, 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 was first held in Tehran’s Evin Prison, before being transferred in July to the notorious Qarchak women’s prison, located in the desert south-east of Tehran. The desert prison has a reputation for its harsh conditions, overcrowding and violence.