The British-Australian scholar Kylie Moore-Gilbert has been released from custody in Iran in a prisoner swap, Iranian and international media have reported.
On Wednesday, November 25, Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) and the Revolutionary Guards-affiliated Tasnim News Agency reported that the 31-year-old university professor was being released in exchange for three Iranian "businessmen" detained abroad. The Sydney Morning Herald and other international media reported in the early hours of November 26 that Thai authorities had released three Iranian men with links to a failed bomb plot in 2012. The men have been named as Saeed Moradi, Mohammad Khazaei and Masoud Sedaghat Zadeh. The bomb plot was foiled after a bomb accidentally went off in a Bangkok villa where the three men were staying. Thai and Israeli authorities said the plot was targeted at Israeli diplomats. One of those arrested, Saeid Moradi, lost parts of both of his legs in the Bangkok explosion. He dropped a cache of more explosives as he tried to flee from police while leaving the villa.
The Young Journalists Club also published a statement on its Twitter page stating that an Iranian businessman and two Iranian citizens had been "exchanged for a dual national spy named Kylie Moore-Gilbert."
It also shared footage from the IRIB that appeared to show Dr. Moore-Gilbert, wearing a headscarf and face mask, in what appears to be a greeting room at Mehrabad International Airport in Tehran. She then climbs into a waiting van.
The same video shows three men, with baseball caps drawn down over their faces and swathed in Iranian flags, arriving at the airport and being greeted by Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi.
In a statement released on November 26, Dr Moore-Gilbert thanked Australian officials and her supporters, and spoke of her warmth for the Iranian people: "I have nothing but respect, love and admiration for the great nation of Iran and its warm-hearted, generous and brave people. It is with bittersweet feelings that I depart your country, despite the injustices which I have been subjected to. I came to Iran as a friend and with friendly intentions, and depart Iran with those sentiments not only still intact, but strengthened."
Dr. Moore-Gilbert, a lecturer at Melbourne University, was arrested at Tehran airport in September 2018 after attending a conference. She was tried in secret and found guilty of espionage, which she has strongly denied. The details of the case were never made public.
The Cambridge-educated academic was sentenced to 10 years in prison. She was transferred to the notorious Qarchak Women's Prison in the summer of 2020, potentially as a form of punishment for going on hunger strike, but was abruptly brought back to Evin in late October.
Campaigners and supporters of Dr. Moore-Gilbert reacted to the news on Twitter, with former political prisoner Jason Rezaian commenting: "I am thrilled to see that Dr. Kylie Moore-Gilbert is finally free after over two years as a hostage of the regime in Iran. As happy as I am, I know the trauma and bewilderment in her face all too well."
IRIB released footage of Moore-Gilbert leaving Evin Prison and boarding a plane, accompanied by dramatic music.
Australian foreign minister Marise Payne said she was "extremely pleased and relieved" to announce Moore-Gilbert's release. "The Australian government has consistently rejected the grounds on which the Iranian government arrested, detained and convicted Dr Moore-Gilbert. We continue to do so." She said the release came after diplomatic engagement between the two governments, and thanked all involved. She also praised Moore-Gilbert for her "strength and determination."
The news broke on the same day as fears are mounting over the fate of another jailed acaemic: the Swedish-Iranian scientist Ahmad Reza Jalali, who has been transferred to Rajaei Shahr Prison and may be facing imminent execution.