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The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Iran frees British-Australian academic in exchange for three Iranians imprisoned abroad

Kylie Moore-Gilbert has been released after more than two years in jail [Twitter]

Date of publication: 25 November, 2020

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Iranian state TV has reported that authorities have freed Kylie Moore-Gilbert, a British-Australian academic held in the country for over two years, in exchange for three Iranians imprisoned abroad.

Iran has freed Kylie Moore-Gilbert, a British-Australian academic who has been detained in the country for more than two years, in exchange for three Iranians held abroad, state TV reported on Wednesday.

The state TV report offered no further details on Wednesday beyond saying that the three Iranians released in the swap had been detained for trying to bypass sanctions.

Moore-Gilbert was a Melbourne University lecturer in Middle Eastern Studies when she was sent to Tehran’s Evin Prison in September 2018 and sentenced to 10 years. She is one of several Westerners held in Iran on internationally criticized espionage charges which their families and human rights groups say are unfounded.

Read also: Iranian-Swedish academic's execution 'imminent'

It was not immediately clear when Moore-Gilbert would arrive back in Australia. State TV aired video showing her with a gray hijab sitting at what appeared to be a greeting room at one of Tehran’s airports. She wore a blue face mask under her chin. The footage showed three men with Iranian flags over their shoulders — those freed in exchange for her being released. State TV earlier described them as “economic activists,” without elaborating.

International pressure on Iran to secure her release has escalated in recent months following reports that her health was deteriorating during long stretches of solitary confinement and that she had been transferred to the notorious Qarchak Prison, east of Tehran.

Moore-Gilbert has gone on hunger strikes and pleaded for the Australian government to do more to free her. Those pleas included writing to the prime minister that she had been subjected to “grievous violations” of her rights, including psychological torture and solitary confinement.

Her detention has further exacerbated tensions between Iran and the West, which reached boiling point earlier this year following the American killing of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani near Baghdad A and retaliatory Iranian strikes on a U.S. military base.

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