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Jailed British-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert 'followed everywhere' inside Iranian prison

Moore-Gilbert was arrested nearly two years ago [University of Melbourne]

Date of publication: 3 September, 2020

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The communications of jailed British-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert are being closely monitored, sources within Qarchak prison have reported.

Every step British-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert makes during her detention in a notorious women's prison in Iran is being monitored by authorities, sources inside the jail have alleged.

The Melbourne-based academic, who is jailed in Iran on alleged spying charges, has enough money to buy food and water inside Qarchak prison but her communication with the outside world are closely monitored.

The executive director of the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center (ABC) for Human Rights in Iran, Roya Boromouand, shared details on Moore-Gilbert's condition which he received from other prisoners. 

"The reason we have trouble getting information from Kylie is that the authorities have mandated two prisoners to follow her everywhere, to report if any prisoners talk to her. But we have some information from people inside that she has enough money on her prison card to be able to buy food and water," Boroumand told The Guardian.

Sources inside the prison say Moore-Gilbert appears to have avoided contracting Covid-19 - for which at least 30 prisoners in Qarchak prison have tested positive.

Kylie Moore-Gilbert was a lecturer on Middle Eastern studies at Melbourne University before being detained in 2018 while trying to leave Iran. She was sent to Tehran's Evin Prison and sentenced to 10 years on espionage charges which she denies.

She was then moved to the infamous women's Qarchack prison last month, The Guardian reported, where conditions are said to be especially harsh. 

The ABC Centre for Human Rights has described the state of the prison. "Every day, Qarchak's sewer system overflows into the wards' courtyards, filling the grounds with a terrible stench that draws in swarms of insects," the centre reported. 

"The prison's water is salty, resulting in hair and skin problems for incarcerated people who have no choice but to shower in it," the centre added.

"The purportedly drinkable water - which has an odour of sewage - comes from a different source that is also cut off periodically in the summer... prisoners must buy bottled water from the prison store at a steep mark-up."

Qarchak prison is typically used to incarcerate drug offenders, the UK daily reported, but political prisoners are sometimes sent there as a punishment. 

Ambassador visit

Australia's ambassador to Iran visited Moore-Gilbert in August and found that she "is well", Australia's government said.

Concerns for her well-being escalated that month with news that she had been moved to Qarchak Prison, east of Tehran. The prison is considered to be one of the worst in the world for women.

Australia sought urgent consular access and its ambassador to Iran, Lyndall Sachs, visited Moore-Gilbert in Qarchak Prison on Sunday, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said in a statement.

"Dr. Moore-Gilbert is well and has access to food, medical facilities and books," the statement said. "We will continue to seek regular consular access to Dr. Moore-Gilbert."

In 2018, Moore-Gilbert was arrested at Tehran airport while trying to leave Iran after attending an academic conference in Qom to which she was invited to speak.

The Center for Human Rights in Iran, a US-based organisation, said in August that Moore-Gilbert was being held with violent criminals under harsh conditions.

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

Reza Khandan, husband of human rights lawyer and Evin Prison inmate Nasrin Sotoudeh, posted on social media in August that Moore-Gilbert had been transferred to Qarchak prison "as a form of punishment".

Australia describes Moore-Gilbert's case as one of its highest priorities.

Moore-Gilbert has gone on hunger strikes during her time in custody and pleaded with the Australian government to do more to free her, after almost two years in custody.

She wrote to Australia's prime minister last year that she has been "subjected to grievous violations of my legal and human rights, including psychological torture and spending prolonged periods of time in solitary confinement".

Agencies contributed to this report.

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