British-Australian academic detained in Iran moved to 'notorious' jail as 'punishment'

28 July 2020, 10:48

Kylie Moore-Gilbert has been imprisoned in Iran since September 2018
Kylie Moore-Gilbert has been imprisoned in Iran since September 2018. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

A British-Australian academic who was jailed in Iran has been moved to a notorious desert prison as a "punishment," according to a group of activists.

Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who was educated at Cambridge but was most recently a lecturer in Islamic Studies at Melbourne University, had been detained in Tehran's Evin prison since September 2018.

She spent almost two years sleeping on a floor, according to a friend, after reportedly being handed a 10-year sentence.

However, she has now been moved to Qarchak prison, known for its poor conditions, according to the Centre for Supporters of Human Rights.

It is believed the jail is used to punish Iranian political prisoners - plus murderers and drug dealers - and conditions have been described by former inmates as abysmal, according to the BBC.

Dr Moore-Gilbert had previously published research on the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings and on authoritarian governments.

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کایلی مور گیلبرت شهروند استرالیایی که در بازداشتگاه امنیتی زندان اوین به سر می‌برد از دو روز پیش به عنوان تنبیه به...

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She has strongly denied all the charges she is facing, including espionage for which she was tried in secret last year, and has previously insisted she is "an innocent woman... imprisoned for a crime I have not committed."

The human rights group found out about her transfer through Reza Khandan whose wife, human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, is currently being detained in Evin prison.

In a Facebook post, Mr Khandan said Dr Moore-Gilbert was moved as a "punishment" and she is in "a very bad condition."

He wrote that she had told him: "I can't eat anything, I don't know, I'm so disappointed. I'm so very depressed."

She also told Mr Khandan that she had last spoken with her family "about a month ago."

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Concerns about the lecturer's mental health grew after letters were smuggled out of prison and published in January.

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.

The academic had travelled to Iran on an Australian passport and was detained at Tehran Airport in 2018 whilte trying to leave following a conference.