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Friends Insist "Not a Victory" as Jailed Academic is Transferred Back to Evin Prison

October 30, 2020
3 min read
British-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert has been held on spurious espionage charges in Iran since 2018
British-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert has been held on spurious espionage charges in Iran since 2018

Kylie Moore-Gilbert has been returned to Evin Prison six days after going "missing" inside Iran's prison system, Australian's ambassador in Tehran has been told.

The British-Australian lecturer is understood to be back on Ward 2-A of the prison, where she had spent much of the last two years under Revolutionary Guards supervision, before being transferred to the notorious Qarchak Women's Prison in July this year.

A source told The Guardian that several other political prisoners at Evin have recently been moved to Ward 2-A as a prelude to their release, but so far there is no guarantee that this will be the case for Dr. Moore-Gilbert.

Confirmation of the scholar's whereabouts came after days of frantic efforts to locate her after she disappeared from the desert prison of Qarchak last week. Australian officials said at the time that securing her release was an “absolute priority” but were forced to admit that at that precise moment, they did not know where she was.

Earlier today, the government released a statement confirming the Ambassador had been told Dr. Moore-Gilbert was back in Evin, adding: "We remain focused on her health, wellbeing and safety. We do not accept the charges on which Dr. Moore-Gilbert was convicted, and want to see her returned to Australia as soon as possible."

Kylie Moore-Gilbert, a Cambridge-educated Middle East scholar and lecturer at the University of Melbourne, was arrested at Tehran Airport in 2018 after attending a conference in Iran. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison for "espionage", but the details of her alleged crimes have not been made public and the charges have been widely denounced as baseless.

This summer she was abruptly moved to Qarchak prison, which is widely regarded as the worst women’s prison in Iran with a reputation for extrajudicial killings, torture, violence and extremely poor sanitation. Speaking by telephone to activist Reza Khandan after arriving at Qarchak, Dr. Moore Gilbert said: “I can’t eat anything, I feel so very hopeless ... I am so depressed.”

Last week she is understood to have met with Mohammed the head of Iran’s Prisons Organisation and the secretary of the Iranian High Council for Human Rights, Ali Bagheri-Kani, to discuss issues with her incarceration. Shortly after the meeting she disappeared from Qarchak together with her belongings. The Australian ambassador's last visit to Qarchak had taken place on October 19.


Back to Square One

Friends and supporters issued a statement today on learning that Dr. Moore-Gilbert was safe. "After a stressful six days," they said, "we're relieved the Australian government has finally been able to locate our friend Kylie Moore-Gilbert in Evin Prison. But make no mistake: this is not a victory, nor does it suggest that progress is being made in Kylie's case.

"Kylie is very familiar with Evin Prison, having already spent nearly two years there in solitary confinement. Although it is a physically safer facility than Qarchak, she is thought to be detained in a section of Evin known as Ward 2-A. Prison cells in 2-A have no mattresses and span just 2m x 3m. Lights are kept on 24 hours a day. Ward 2-A is controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which makes it a far harsher place than the already notorious general wards in Evin Prison. Kylie’s transfer is hardly a mercy."

During her previous period of detention on Ward 2-A Dr. Moore Gilbert went on hunger strike in protest against the restrictive conditions and the impact her detention was having on her mental health. Friends told the BBC that Dr. Moore-Gilbert had been beaten for trying to comfort new prisoners at Evin by passing notes and writing to them on prison walls.

"Our hearts break thinking about how psychologically difficult this return to Evin Prison must be for Kylie," her friends wrote. "Despite being so strong and brave for the last 778 days, she is still so far from freedom.

"Australia has achieved no progress in Kylie’s case in more than two years. If quiet diplomacy was working, Kylie would not be treated worse than any other foreign national held in Iran. The Iranian regime is running circles around the Australian government and this case is a shambles."


Related coverage:

Australian Ambassador to Meet With Jailed Australian-British Academic

Iran Punishes Australian Academic by Jailing her With Dangerous Criminals

Iran Ignores Pleas to Protect Prisoners from Covid-19



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