British-Australian academic visited in notorious Iran jail

Australian diplomatic officials have visited a British-Australian academic in detention in Iran, confirming reports that she has been moved to a notorious desert prison.

Kylie Moore-Gilbert is now in Qarchak prison, where she was visited by ambassador to Iran Lyndall Sachs on Monday, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said in a statement.

“Australia’s ambassador to Iran made a consular visit to Dr Moore-Gilbert in Qarchak Prison on 2 August,” DFAT said.

“Dr Moore-Gilbert is well and has access to food, medical facilities and books.

“We will continue to seek regular consular access to Dr Moore-Gilbert.

“We believe that the best chance of resolving Dr Moore-Gilbert’s case lies through the diplomatic path and not through the media. Dr Moore-Gilbert and her family have requested privacy.”

Cambridge-educated MsMoore-Gilbert, who was most recently a lecturer in Islamic studies at Melbourne University, had previously been held in Tehran’s Evin prison.

She was reportedly given a 10-year sentence in September 2018, officially on charges of spying, having been arrested at Tehran airport after leaving a conference.

She has previously published work on the 2011 Arab uprisings and on authoritarian governments.

Ms Moore-Gilbert’s family said they were “reassured” by the Australian consular visit.

“We, the family, have been reassured after the Australian embassy’s visit with Kylie on Sunday,” they said in the DFAT statement.

“We remain committed to getting our Kylie home as soon as possible and this is our top and only priority.

“We continue to believe that Kylie’s best chance at release is through diplomatic avenues and are in close contact with DFAT and the Australian government on the best ways to achieve this.”

The family said they are thankful that Ms Moore-Gilbert has “so many strong supporters and friends who love and care about her safe return” and asked for privacy “while we concentrate on getting her home”.

The Centre for Supporters of Human Rights last week reported that Ms Moore-Gilbert had been moved, citing information from Reza Khandan, whose wife – human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh – is imprisoned in Evin.

In a Facebook post, Mr Khandan said Ms Moore-Gilbert was moved to Qarchak for “punishment”.

Letters smuggled out of prison and published in January revealed the lecturer’s fears for her mental health.

She said: “I’m taking psychiatric medications, but these 10 months that I have spent here have gravely damaged my mental health.

“I am still denied phone calls and visitations, and I am afraid that my mental and emotional state may further deteriorate if I remain in this extremely restrictive detention ward.”

She also appeared to suggest she had been offered the chance to become a spy.

“I am not a spy. I have never been a spy and I have no interest to work for a spying organisation in any country,” she wrote.