LONDON: A British-Australian national imprisoned in Iran has reportedly suffered beatings and been drugged by guards.
Dr. Kylie Moore-Gilbert, an expert in Islamic studies at the University of Melbourne in Australia, and who was educated at Cambridge University, has been incarcerated at Evin Prison, north of Tehran, since she was arrested on charges of espionage after attending a conference in Iran in 2018.
Thought to be the only non-Iranian dual-national currently imprisoned by the regime, Moore-Gilbert, who does not speak Farsi, has formed a choir of fellow inmates that hum together while working in the prison kitchens, or while in their cells, to keep spirits up and to defy prison authorities.
Having revealed in letters smuggled from the prison that Iranian intelligence had tried to persuade her to become a spy for Tehran to secure her release, it emerged that she had also been trying to communicate with fellow female inmates, who are often threatened with rape and death while incarcerated, offering them support and urging them not to succumb to intimidation.
One source close to her family told British newspaper The Times: “She got huge respect from other prisoners for being so inventive in her defiance.”
But for her troubles, it has been claimed that Moore-Gilbert has suffered serious physical mistreatment at the hands of guards, and may have been drugged at the behest of Evin’s governor in an effort to make her “compliant.”
Another source told The Times that she had been seen receiving medical treatment for injuries to her hands and arms, and had severe bruising across her body.
The source added that Moore-Gilbert had appeared weak and incoherent, and described her as seeming “comatose.”
The use of drugs in the Iranian prison system to control prisoner behavior is thought to be commonplace, with most inmates only given access to foods such as bread and rice, and fresh fruits and vegetables hard to come by.
Richard Ratcliffe, husband of British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, said Moore-Gilbert “is being kept in solitary (confinement) at a level of abuse that’s egregious, and the fact that the Iranian authorities are getting away with it is something that has shocked all the Iranian activists we’ve worked with.”
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was recently given temporary home-release as part of a nationwide effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Iranian prisons, spent time in the same wing of Evin as Moore-Gilbert.
“Nazanin battled it for a long time, but was taking sleeping tablets to get to sleep (before her release). I would think that most people in solitary are being drugged,” said Ratcliffe.
He warned that as with his own family’s attempts to secure his wife’s release, Iran would try “all sorts of manipulative tricks” to put pressure on the relatives of detainees.