Jailed academic rejects offer to spy for Iran

Academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who specialises in Middle Eastern politics with a focus on Gulf states. (Family of Kylie Moore-Gilbert/AFP)
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Updated 21 January 2020

Jailed academic rejects offer to spy for Iran

LONDON: An academic currently imprisoned in Iran on charges of espionage has reportedly refused an offer to become a spy for Tehran in return for her freedom.

Kylie Moore-Gilbert, a UK-Australian dual national, made the revelation in a series of letters handed to The Times that were smuggled out of Evin prison, located in the north of the capital, where she is serving 10 years.

In the letters, addressed separately to a Mr. Vasiri, believed to be a deputy prosecutor in the Iranian judiciary, and a Mr. Ghaderi and Mr. Hosseini, who are thought to be officers in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Moore-Gilbert stated in basic Farsi that she had “never been a spy, and I have no intention to work for a spying organization in any country.” 

She added: “Please accept this letter as an official and definitive rejection of your offer to me to work with the intelligence branch of the IRGC.”

Moore-Gilbert, a lecturer in Islamic studies at the University of Melbourne in Australia, was arrested in 2018 after attending a conference in Tehran. 

She was tried and convicted in secret, and her letters implied that she had been kept in solitary confinement in a wing of Evin prison under the IRGC’s control.

It is reportedly the same wing being used to detain UK-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, also incarcerated for espionage, and away from the all-female cellblock that Moore-Gilbert was meant to have been housed in.

The letters catalog a series of other mistreatments and inhumane conditions, suggesting she had been permitted no contact with her family, and that, having been denied access to vital medication, her health was deteriorating.

She also suggested that she had been subjected to sleep deprivation methods, with lights in her cell kept on 24 hours per day, and that she was often blindfolded when transported. 

“It is clear that IRGC Intelligence is playing an awful game with me. I am an innocent victim,” she wrote.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne met with her Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif in India last week, where the case was discussed.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry later issued a statement claiming that the country would not “submit to political games and propaganda” over the issue.

This comes at a time when international pressure has ratcheted up on the regime in Tehran following the downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane over the capital on Jan. 8. 

Mass demonstrations nationwide followed the news that the plane had been shot down by Iranian forces. 

Olympian defects to Germany

Meanwhile, Iran’s only female Olympic medalist, Kimia Alizadeh, announced that she would not return to the country, citing her refusal to continue to be used as a “propaganda tool.”

She wrote of her decision on Instagram: “I wore whatever they told me and repeated whatever they ordered. Every sentence they ordered I repeated. None of us matter for them, we are just tools.”

It was revealed on Jan. 20 that the taekwondo martial artist, who had been living and training in Eindhoven in the Netherlands, had elected to move to Hamburg in Germany, for whom she will now compete.

Alizadeh’s defection is just one in a series of high-profile acts of defiance by Iranians outraged by the actions of the regime.

At least two journalists working for Iranian state-owned TV channels are known to have resigned their positions in protest.

One, news anchor Gelare Jabbari, posted on Instagram: “It was very hard for me to believe that our people have been killed. Forgive me that I got to know this late. And forgive me for the 13 years I told you lies.”

Palestinian couple to wed after groom’s 18-year Israeli jail term

Updated 30 September 2020

Palestinian couple to wed after groom’s 18-year Israeli jail term

  • I never lost hope that our love would triumph in the end ... My story is one of thousands like it of women who suffer from the oppression of the occupation: Palestinian bride Jinan Samara

WEST BANK: When Palestinian bride Jinan Samara dons her wedding dress on Friday to marry Abdel Karim Mukhader, it will mark a ceremony of mixed emotions that has been forcibly put on hold for 18 years.

For on Sunday, her groom was finally released from a prison sentence imposed under the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.

Mukhader, 49, was aged just 31 when he was jailed, but his love for Samara has only grown stronger during his long years behind bars.

And his new wife-to-be was waiting at the Jalamah Israeli military checkpoint to greet him with a bouquet of flowers and a fond embrace after his release from the Majiddo detention center in the occupied West Bank.

“I never lost hope that our love would triumph in the end. I did not hesitate for a moment in deciding to be patient and wait for him, and my family did not interfere in my decision, but encouraged and supported me,” Samara told Arab News.

“My story is one of thousands like it of women who suffer from the oppression of the occupation. In many homes, there is a wife or mother of a martyr or a prisoner,” she added.

Throughout her fiance’s imprisonment, Samara, an educational supervisor at Ministry of Education schools in the central West Bank city of Salfit, visited him whenever Israeli authorities allowed and helped him with university studies.

Thanks to her encouragement, Mukhader gained a master’s degree in Israeli studies, through Al-Quds University.

On his first night of freedom in 18 years, the couple stayed awake planning their wedding. “We want to use every minute to be together in our house after years of distancing and deprivation,” Samara said.

Mukhader said he would never forget his fiancee’s years of devotion and sacrifice. “If I offered her the world with what it contained, I would not fulfill her right. Palestinian women are always side by side with men paying the tax of occupation and injustice.

“But despite my joy in freedom and meeting Jinan and my loved ones, my heart is still with thousands of prisoners, my colleagues, who suffer oppression and injustice in the prisons of the occupation,” he added.

There are reportedly around 5,000 Palestinian detainees currently being held in Israeli jails, among them women and children, and Mukhader noted that conditions for inmates had worsened since the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.

“The embrace of freedom again and liberation from the occupation prisons represents a new birth certificate for any prisoner,” he said. “Prisons are like graves, and time inside is slow and heavy. With the passage of years, the prisoner loses the ability to perceive the value of minutes and hours.”

He said his worst moment in jail was when he received news of his mother’s death. “I felt that the prison bars were being applied roughly to my heart.”

Once married, Mukhader plans to complete his higher studies and obtain a doctorate in political economy, before fighting for the freedom of former prison colleagues.