26/11/2020 10:26 AM AEDT

Iran Swaps Jailed Australian Academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert With Iranians Held Abroad

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the department secured her release through diplomatic engagement.

Sky News
Iran Swaps Jailed Australian Academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert With Iranians Held Abroad

Iran has exchanged a jailed British-Australian academic, Kylie Moore-Gilbert, with three Iranians who had been detained abroad, Iran’s state broadcaster IRIB reported on Wednesday.

Moore-Gilbert, a specialist in Middle East politics at the University of Melbourne, was detained in Iran in September, 2018 and had been serving a 10-year sentence for espionage.

State TV said that an Iranian businessman and two Iranian citizens who had been held abroad “on baseless charges” had been exchanged for Moore-Gilbert.

It gave no further details about the three Iranians, but said they were detained for trying to circumvent US sanctions, reimposed on Iran in 2018 when Washington exited Iran’s nuclear deal with six powers.

Footage aired by state TV showed Moore-Gilbert at the airport with a headscarf, appearing to be waiting to board a plane to leave Iran.

The footage also showed three men wearing face-masks with Iranian national flags on their shoulders and one in a wheelchair with his both legs amputated at the knee, were welcomed at the airport by Iranian officials with chants of “Allahu akbar” (God is Greatest).

Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne said in a statement the department secured her release through diplomatic engagement. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said no prisoners in Australia were released in order to secure Moore-Gilbert’s release. 

“We would never comment on the details of that release or the arrangements around it,” he said. 

“That’s not just to protect these arrangements but also Australians in any circumstances in a like way around the world. We deal with these matters very discretely and work quietly behind-the-scenes as we have been doing now for two years to secure her release.”

Morrison said he had spoken to Moore-Gilbert and said her tone sounded uplifting. 

Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards have arrested dozens of dual nationals in recent years, mostly on espionage charges.

Rights activists have accused Iran of arresting dual nationals to try to win concessions from other countries. Tehran denies it holds people for political reasons and has accused many of the foreigners in its jails of espionage.