British-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert not among prisoners freed in Iran amid coronavirus fears

British-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert, seen here in 2017, has not been listed among the 85,000 prisoners released in Iran as coronavirus sweeps the country. (Screenshot/YouTube)
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Updated 19 March 2020

British-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert not among prisoners freed in Iran amid coronavirus fears

  • She is currently being held in Ward 2A of the notorious Evin prison
  • Iran now has more than 17,000 coronavirus cases

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.”


Iran reports COVID-19 death every five minutes, hospitals struggle

Updated 20 min 39 sec ago

Iran reports COVID-19 death every five minutes, hospitals struggle

  • Some experts have doubted the accuracy of Iran’s official coronavirus tolls

DUBAI: Hospitals in many Iranian provinces are running out of capacity to handle COVID-19 cases, health authorities say, with novel coronavirus now killing around 300 people a day or one person every five minutes.

Authorities have complained of poor social distancing, and Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi said the pandemic could cause 600 daily deaths in coming weeks if Iranians failed to respect health protocols in the Middle East’s hardest-affected country.

A caption that ran on state television news said an Iranian died of novel coronavirus every five minutes, a rate that corresponds to daily death tallies reported by the authorities of just above or below 300 over the past 20 days.

Health Ministry spokesman Sima Sadat Lari told state TV on Sunday that 32,616 people had died of the disease and the number of confirmed cases had reached 568,896.

Some experts have doubted the accuracy of Iran’s official coronavirus tolls. A report by the Iranian parliament’s research center in April suggested that the coronavirus tolls might be almost twice as many as those announced by the health ministry.

The report said that Iran’s official coronavirus figures were based only on the number of deaths in hospitals and those who had already tested positive for the coronavirus.

Schools, mosques, shops, restaurants and other public institutions in Tehran have been closed since Oct. 3. As COVID-19 cases and deaths continued to hit record levels, the closure was extended until Nov. 20, state TV reported.

Officials said “extreme measures and limitations” will be imposed in at least 43 counties across the country for one week, where the infection rates have been alarming. TV reported that 21 one of Iran’s 31 provinces were on a coronavirus red alert.

Iran has blamed US sanctions for hampering Tehran’s efforts to tackle the outbreak. Washington, accusing Iran of “incompetent and deadly governance,” has refused to lift sanctions that were reimposed after 2018 when Trump exited Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six powers.