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)
Short Url
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.”


Resumed cargo flights: Thaw in Israel-Turkey ties?

Updated 25 May 2020

Resumed cargo flights: Thaw in Israel-Turkey ties?

  • Ankara’s involvement in Syria’s Idlib province against the Tehran-backed Assad regime has recently provided a common denominator for Turkey and Israel to reconcile
  • Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians remains a major irritant in relations with Ankara – Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday reiterated his support for the Palestinians

ISTANBUL: Israeli airline El Al has resumed cargo flights twice weekly between Tel Aviv and Istanbul for the first time in 10 years — a sign that decade-long bilateral tensions might be easing.
A cargo flight landed in Istanbul on Sunday morning to pick up humanitarian aid and protective equipment destined for US medical teams fighting COVID-19.
Burhanettin Duran, head of the Ankara-based think tank SETA, wrote that Turkey’s regional empowerment is “obliging Israel to search for normalization steps with Ankara.”
Dr. Nimrod Goren, head of the Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies, said the cargo flight is a positive and visible development in bilateral relations that was probably approved by top government officials on both sides and required diplomatic efforts.
“However, the fact that this step takes place in parallel to a discussion about Israeli annexation in the West Bank, and to criticism of annexation by regional and international actors, might impact how it’s viewed in Turkey,” he told Arab News.
Goren said while the Israeli and Turkish governments continue to have significant policy differences, they should work to restore their relations to ambassadorial level, and to relaunch a strategic dialogue on regional developments of mutual interest.
“The forming of a new Israeli government, and the appointment of Gabi Ashkenazi as a new foreign minister, could be an opportunity to do so, and the cargo flight brings some positive momentum,” he added.
Turkey expelled Israel’s ambassador in May 2018 after the US moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Ankara’s involvement in Syria’s Idlib province against the Tehran-backed Assad regime has recently provided a common denominator for Turkey and Israel to reconcile, as it also serves the latter’s strategic interests in weakening the Iranian presence in Syria.
But Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians remains a major irritant in relations with Ankara. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday reiterated his support for the Palestinians. 
In a video message on Twitter, he said the issue of Jerusalem “is a red line for all Muslims worldwide.”
He added that Israel’s “new occupation and annexation project … disrespects Palestine’s sovereignty and international law.”
Ryan Bohl, Middle East analyst at geopolitical-risk firm Stratfor, told Arab News: “Turkey is trying to create economic ties with Israel because … Erdogan is finding the political ground changed, caused in part by demographic changes as young Turks are less incensed by the Palestinian issue, and in part by a general weariness among Turks about putting too much skin in the game to solve the Palestinian question,” 
Israel is expected to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank on July 1 under the terms of a coalition government agreement. Ankara has strongly criticized the plan.
Israeli and Turkish officials are rumored to have held talks behind closed doors to reach a deal on maritime borders and exclusive economic zones in the eastern Mediterranean. 
Israel’s Foreign Ministry recently said it was “proud of our diplomatic relations with Turkey.”
But Goren said it is currently unlikely that Israel will advance a maritime demarcation deal with Turkey as it would shake several regional balances at the same time.
“It will put in jeopardy, and run in contrast to, the important alliances in the eastern Mediterranean that Israel has fostered in recent years with Greece, Cyprus and Egypt,” he added.