LONDON: British-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert has not been listed among the 85,000 prisoners released in Iran as coronavirus sweeps the country.
Moore-Gilbert, an expert on Islamic studies, was arrested in September 2018 and sentenced to 10 years in prison. The charges are not publicly known, but are widely believed to be related to espionage.
She is currently being held in Ward 2A of the notorious Evin prison, which is run by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Iran now has more than 17,000 coronavirus cases, with some 1,135 recorded deaths. Amid the surge of the virus and its health implications, Iran has taken extraordinary measures to contain the spread.
These include a mass effort of enforced social distancing in Iranian cities, military lockdown and the temporary release of prisoners.
On Tuesday, British-Iranian aid worker and prisoner Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was given temporary release for two weeks.
But the same offer of partial freedom has not been made elsewhere. Moore-Gilbert has been publicly silent for months and communication between her and other prisoners has reportedly reduced in recent weeks.
Smuggled letters out of Evin prison recently revealed that she rejected offers to spy for Iran.
Elaine Pearson, Australia director of Human Rights Watch, said: “Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is urging all Australians to come home so it should absolutely prioritize the return of vulnerable Australians like Kylie Moore-Gilbert who are arbitrarily detained abroad.”
She added: “Governments are closing their borders, flights are becoming more limited and it will only get worse. Prison is no place to be when there is a pandemic. There are grave risks to Kylie’s health if she remains in Evin prison. And Kylie should never have been imprisoned in the first place. (Foreign Minister) Marise Payne should be calling on the Iranian authorities to do the right thing and release Kylie.”
Payne has previously said: “The government has been working extremely hard in relation to the ongoing detention of Kylie Moore-Gilbert.”
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has maintained: “We continue to believe that the best way to secure a successful outcome is through diplomatic channels and not through the media.”
Australian academics last night said that they were “devastated” to learn that Moore-Gilbert was not part of the latest releases, with University of Tasmania researcher, Susanne Ferwerda, tweeting: “I can’t imagine what it must be like as a political prisoner because of your research.”