Sat, 16 Jan 2021

Iran has freed a British-Australian academic, Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who had been detained in the country for over two years, in exchange for three Iranians held abroad.

The television report was scant on detail, saying only that the three Iranians freed in the swap had been imprisoned for trying to bypass sanctions on Iran.

The government Mehr News Agency said that Mrs. Moore-Gilbert was "a spy, working for the Zionist regime." She was exchanged against "one Iranian businessman along with two other Iranian nationals who were detained abroad due to false charges."

Kylie Moore-Gilbert, 33, was a Melbourne University lecturer on Middle Eastern studies when she was picked up at the Tehran airport while trying to leave the country after attending an academic conference in 2018. She was sent to Tehran's Evin prison, convicted of spying and sentenced to 10 years behind bars. Moore-Gilbert had vehemently denied the charges and maintained her innocence.

She was one of several Westerners held in Iran on widely criticized espionage charges that activists and U.N. investigators believe is a systematic effort to leverage their imprisonments for money or influence in negotiations with the West, which Tehran denies. Moore-Gilbert wrote in a series of letters to Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison detailing her plight that she had been imprisoned "to extort" the Australian government.

French and British prisoners

Earlier this year, two French academics held in Iran, accused of plotting "acts against national security" went on trial March 3.

Iranian-French researcher Fariba Adelkhah and French national Roland Marchal, both researchers at Sciences Po University in Paris, were detained in the Islamic republic in June 2019 and are being held in Evin prison in Tehran.

Roland Marchal was eventually freed on 20 March, but Fariba Adelkhah, was sentenced to 6 years on 16 May, an outcome "utterly condemned" by the French government.

Currently British-Iranian national Mrs. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who put in prison on charges of "plotting to overthrow the Iranian government" in 2016 and sentenced to five years in prison, was temporarily released in March this year, and placed under house arrest, pending a new trial. In a statement on 2 November, the British foreign office called Iran's decision to bring a new case against Mrs Ratcliffe "appalling."

Orginally published on RFI

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