TEHRAN: Iran has released Australian-British academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who was serving a 10-year prison sentence for spying, in exchange for three Iranians, state television in the Islamic republic reported on Wednesday.

The broadcaster’s Iribnews website showed video footage of three unidentified men — one of them in a wheelchair — draped in Iranian flags and being met by officials.

It also aired images of a veiled Moore-Gilbert entering a building with the Australian ambassador to Tehran, Lyndall Sachs, before taking off her face mask. She is later seen getting into white van carrying a brown bag.

“A businessman and two (other) Iranian citizens detained abroad on the basis of false accusations were freed in exchange for a spy with dual nationality working for” Israel, the broadcaster’s Iribnews website said, also identifying Moore-Gilbert by name. The broadcaster provided no further information on the prisoner swap.

A lecturer in Islamic Studies at the University of Melbourne, Moore-Gilbert’s arrest was confirmed by Iran in Sept 2019 but it is believed she had been detained a year earlier. She has denied the charges against her.

Iranian media has remained silent about Moore-Gilbert and the little information that has emerged has mostly come from Australian authorities, her family and from British and Australian media.

British newspaper The Guardian reported that Moore-Gilbert was arrested at Tehran airport by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Sept 2018 after attending an academic conference in the holy city of Qom, in central Iran.

According to letters she smuggled out of prison and published in British media in January, Moore-Gilbert rejected Tehran’s offer to work as a spy. Moore-Gilbert wrote that the first 10 months she spent in an isolated Guards-run wing of Tehran’s Evin prison had “gravely damaged” her mental health, according to extracts in The Guardian and The Times newspapers.

Published in Dawn, November 26th, 2020

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