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Iran releases British-Australian academic in prisoner exchange

Written by on 25/11/2020

Iran has released a British-Australian academic it had accused of spying in exchange for three Iranians being held abroad, according to the country’s state TV.

Kylie Moore-Gilbert had gone on hunger strikes and spent long stretches in solitary confinement after being sentenced to 10 years behind bars.

She had vehemently denied the charges and maintained her innocence.

Official Iranian television showed video of her in a grey hijab, sitting in what appeared to be a meeting room at one of Tehran’s airports, with a blue face mask under her chin.

There was also footage of three men with Iranian flags over their shoulders, described as “economic activists”, who were met by Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi.

Dr Moore-Gilbert was arrested in September 2018 after attending an academic conference in the city of Qom, about 90 miles south of the capital.

She had recently been transferred to Qarchak Prison, east of Tehran, a desert facility notorious for its poor conditions and overcrowding, and her health was said to be worsening.

More from Iran

Undated family handout file photo of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe whose husband, Richard has said that Iran's alleged use of prisoners as "collateral" over a multi-million pound dispute with the UK is "completely outrageous.
Image: Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has also been held in Iran

The apparent release of Dr Moore-Gilbert showed there could be “light at the end of the tunnel” for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, her husband Richard said.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe has also been imprisoned in Iran, but was temporarily released in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Ratcliffe said the news about Ms Moore-Gilbert was a “nice shock and Nazanin was really happy when I told her”.

He added: “I think probably on a selfish level there’s always a kind of a bittersweet wondering when it’ll be our turn. Of course there isn’t a queue, these things happen in a random order.

“The reality is that whenever there’s movement, there’s hope.

“I don’t know what it means for us. It’s definitely a good thing for Kylie and it’s definitely a good thing for all of us that deals are being done.”

Amnesty International UK said Dr Moore-Gilbert’s release was an “enormous relief” and called on the Government to put pressure on Iranian authorities to release other detainees.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s MP Tulip Siddiq, added: “Now let’s make this a Christmas reality for Nazanin too.”

 Sky News

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