University lecturer jailed in Iran 'held in solitary confinement' for a year

14 September 2019, 09:43

Kylie Moore-Gilbert has been held in jail in Iran for a year
Kylie Moore-Gilbert has been held in jail in Iran for a year. Picture: pa

By Asher McShane

The British-Australian academic held in Iran’s notorious Evin prison has been named as University of Melbourne lecturer Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert.

She has been held in Iran since October 2018 on unknown charges. According to reports, she has been held in solitary confinement the entire time and is said to face up to 10 years in jail.

The Cambridge-educated academic is a lecturer in Islamic Studies at the university.

She "specialises in Middle Eastern politics, with a particular focus on the Arab Gulf states," according to the university’s website. She had published work on the 2011 Arab uprisings, authoritarian governance, and on the role of new media technologies in political activism.

Jolie King and Mark Firkin are also being held in a separate incident
Jolie King and Mark Firkin are also being held in a separate incident. Picture: pa

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade released a statement from Dr Moore-Gilbert's family today, which said: "We have been and continue to be in close contact with the Australian Government.

"Our family thanks the Government and the University of Melbourne for their ongoing support at this distressing and sensitive time. We believe that the best chance of securing Kylie's safe return is through diplomatic channels.

"We will not be making any further comment and would like to request that our privacy - and that of our wider family and friends - is respected at this time."

Another British-Australian woman, Jolie King, and her Australian boyfriend Mark Firkin, have been held for the past 10 weeks in an unrelated incident.

Australia's Foreign Minister Marise Payne says she has raised their cases "many times" with her Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif.

And Senator Payne has denied the arrests were politically motivated, although some reports have speculated the trio are being held in hope of giving Iran political leverage on a number of ongoing disputes with the western countries.

"We have no reason to think that these arrests are connected to international concern over Iran's nuclear programme, United Nations sanction enforcement or maritime security concerning the safety of civilian shipping," Senator Payne said.

News of the three prisoners this week has come amid a downturn in relations between Britain and Iran, sparked by issues including the Royal Marines' seizure near Gibraltar in July of an Iranian oil tanker, the Adrian Darya 1.

Iran responded by seizing British-flagged oil tanker the Stena Impero in what was another chapter in a campaign of interfering with shipping in the Strait of Hormuz.

While Britain released the Adrian Darya 1, the Stena Impero is still being held by Iran.

Relations between Tehran and the west, especially the United States, have also been strained over attempts to restrict Iran's nuclear programme.

Ms King and Mr Firkin, who left their home in Perth, Western Australia, in 2017, had been posting updates on their trip across Asia on social media before being arrested, reportedly for endeavouring to use a drone to take aerial footage.

Evin prison, the main detention centre for Iran's political prisoners, also houses 41-year-old Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian mother of one who is midway through a five year sentence on spying charges which began in 2016.

While Iran has not commented publicly on any of the arrests, in April its foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif proposed swapping Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe for Negar Ghodskani, an Iranian woman in jail in the US.