LONDON: Iran has launched a disinformation campaign following the release of British-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert, claiming that she “spied for Israel.”
An Iranian state-run TV channel aired a 10-minute program on Moore-Gilbert featuring several pictures of her traveling, and with friends and family.
The 33-year-old Middle East expert spent more than 800 days in Tehran’s custody until she was exchanged for three Iranian prisoners serving sentences overseas, in a high-profile prisoner swap last week.
Together with the Australian government, she maintains that the spying allegations are baseless. No evidence of her alleged crimes has ever been publicly presented by Tehran.
The TV program claimed that Moore-Gilbert was “recruited by Israeli intelligence” and then placed at Cambridge University in the UK to link up with former Israeli army officers and Mossad.
There was no evidence presented, but the program featured images of Moore-Gilbert visiting Jerusalem and images of her alongside other women in military uniforms, in what the commentary claimed was a “Haifa training camp.”
The program said: “As per her training and to avoid any threat, she went to all the places where tourists visit and made calls from those areas and took photographs. She was told to hide her travels to Israel and also her contacts with Israelis.”
Jasim Husain, a former Bahraini MP, is accused by the report of helping Moore-Gilbert learn Arabic and Farsi, and offering to help her spy on Shiite exiles in Iran.
In response to the allegations, Husain told The Guardian newspaper: “The story is unconvincing to anyone with basic knowledge.”
He said he met Moore-Gilbert at an academic forum in Australia before her 2018 visit to Iran, where she was detained while leaving the country.
Husain said: “I was aware of her trip. She was going there for a conference, then going to some tourist sites, then engaging in some research.”
He added: “Kylie can do no trouble to anyone, let alone a country. She is properly peaceful, a true researcher, an academic and someone who loves the Middle East.”
He said the Iranian TV report left him concerned about his security, adding: “Some people believe this nonsense.”
Diplomatic sources said the Iranian disinformation campaign is designed to achieve two goals: Domestically, to prove to the public that the prisoner swap was a diplomatic victory for Tehran; and internationally, to justify Moore-Gilbert’s detainment.
Moore-Gilbert returned to Australia last week. She posted a message on Facebook thanking her supporters. “My freedom truly is your victory. From the bottom of my heart, thank you,” she said.