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British-Australian lecturer moved to Iran's 'worst prison' as 'punishment'

Moore-Gilbert has been held for two years [Getty]

Date of publication: 28 July, 2020

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Qarchak is said to be the worst women's prison in the world.
A British-Australian university lecturer jailed in Iran has been moved to the country's most notorious and isolated women's prison as "punishment" for comforting other detainees, media have reported.

Kylie Moore-Gilbert, an academic at Melbourne University, has been detained in Iran for two years for alleged espionage, charges which she and her family strongly deny.

The international relations lecturer has been held at Evin Prison - known for the widespread use of torture and poor conditions - in Tehran, but was recently moved Qarchak, a detention centre with an even worse reputation.

"Qarchak jail is where common prisoners are held. It's overcrowded and some of them are dangerous," said Hadi Ghaemi, director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran, according to the BBC.

The Australian government has said it is "urgently seeking access" to Moore-Gilbert and holds Tehran responsible for her well-being.

"Dr Moore-Gilbert's case is one of the Australian government's highest priorities, including for our embassy officials in Tehran," Australia's department of foreign affairs and trade said.

Iranian authorities confirmed that Moore-Gilbert had been moved to Qarchak, considered to be the "worst women's prison in the world", where conditions are said to be "abysmal".

Guards are reportedly frustrated by the support and help she has provided other detainees. Being sent to Qarchak is considered one of the worst forms of punishment for women prisoners in Iran, activists said. 

"They're not happy with her resilience and her refusal to co-operate," said Ghaemi.

Read also: Jailed Australian-British academic has 'attempted suicide multiple times' in Iran detention

She was reportedly beaten by guards for passing notes and writing messages on prison walls to boost the spirits of other prisoners.

Despite her resiliance, Moore-Gilbert is said to be in poor physical and psychological health due to conditions in prison and being barred from speaking to her family.

The husband of jailed human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh wrote on Facebook that Moore-Gilbert is in "a very bad condition".

"I can't eat anything, I don't know, I'm so disappointed. I'm so very depressed," she told him.

Moore Gilbert was tried in secret and sentenced to ten years in jail, after being detained in September 2018.

She is among a number of other foreign prisoners - some of them dual nationals - being held in Iran on what human rights group call "trumped up charges" of spying and espionage and considered to be "bargaining chips" by Tehran.

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