Iran moves detained academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert back to Tehran prison

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Moore-Gilbert, who has Australian and British citizenship, had been held in Qarchak, widely regarded as the worst female prison in Iran

Kylie Moore-Gilbert
Iran has moved the academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who has been detained since September 2018, back to Evin prison in Tehran. Photograph: Twitter
Iran has moved the academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who has been detained since September 2018, back to Evin prison in Tehran. Photograph: Twitter

Last modified on Fri 30 Oct 2020 06.19 GMT

The detained British-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert has been moved back to Tehran’s Evin prison, sources with knowledge of her case have confirmed to hlcarpenter.com.

Moore-Gilbert is understood to be back in the secretive ward 2A of Tehran’s largest prison, where she had spent much of the past two years under the control of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

A Cambridge-educated Middle East scholar, Moore-Gilbert was convicted in a secret trial and given a 10-year sentence for espionage after being arrested in September 2018 in Tehran, where she had attended a conference.

She was suddenly removed from Qarchak women’s prison last Saturday, and for days her whereabouts were unknown to family and friends.

Other political prisoners have been moved back to 2A as a prelude to their release, sources have told hlcarpenter.com, but there is no firm evidence this is the case with Moore-Gilbert.

Her move could be related to conditions at Qarchak prison or other concerns about her detention, sources said.

Last week Moore-Gilbert met the head of Iran’s Prisons Organisation, Mohammad Mehdi Haj-Mohammadi, and the secretary of the Iranian High Council for Human Rights, Ali Bagheri-Kani, and reportedly raised issues about her incarceration.

After the meeting, reported by Iranian judiciary’s official news agency Mizan, Haj Mohammadi told prison staff they should act to fix shortcomings at Qarchak.

“We understand that a prisoner is a criminal before entering the prison, but after entering the prison, we consider them a needy, capable person deserving of correction and assistance.”

Isolated in the desert outside Tehran, Qarchak is widely regarded as the worst women’s prison in Iran, and known as a site of extrajudicial killings, torture and other rights violations.

But Moore-Gilbert was in good condition in the days before she was moved from her ward in Qarchak, according to activists, including one who shared a cell with her last week.

Nasrin Sotoudeh, an Iranian human rights lawyer and political prisoner, was a close friend of Moore-Gilbert’s when they shared a cell in Evin. Last week Sotoudeh was moved to Qarchak where she was reunited with Moore-Gilbert, Sotoudeh’s husband, Reza Khandan, told hlcarpenter.com on Thursday.

They shared a cell together for about five days, he said. Sotoudeh could say little on their monitored calls, but told him: “She was in a good and comfortable condition in that ward compared with other wards of Qarchak prison and Evin which she had previously been. But unfortunately she spent only a few days in that ward … and then moved.

“They were talking in English,” Khandan said. “[Kylie] was in a good condition in those final days and had someone around to talk to.”

The eyewitness account confirms reports by the Human Rights Activists News Agency that Moore-Gilbert was moved on Saturday with all her possessions.

Iranian activists including Khandan have spoken to contacts inside the public wards of Evin prison, who say Moore-Gilbert has not appeared there.

He said if Moore-Gilbert was in ward 2A, controlled by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, she would have no contact with the outside world.

“Inmates there are either in a single-person cell or two in one cell, and have no phone,” Khandan said. “Prisoners in this ward have no such freedom which they have in other wards. It has very tough restrictions.”

No evidence of Moore-Gilbert’s alleged crimes has ever been publicly presented. She has denied the allegations against her, and the Australian government rejects them as baseless and politically motivated.

Late on Friday, a Dfat spokesman told hlcarpenter.com that Australia’s ambassador in Tehran, Lyndall Sachs, had been advised that Moore-Gilbert has been moved to Evin prison.

“Our ambassador last visited Dr Moore-Gilbert at Qarchak prison on 19 October. The ambassador has requested that the regular access to Dr Moore-Gilbert continue at Evin prison.”

Free Kylie Moore-Gilbert, a group of friends, colleagues and supporters of the jailed academic said: “After a stressful six days, we’re relieved that the Australian government has finally managed to locate our friend Kylie Moore-Gilbert in Evin prison. But make no mistake: this is not a victory, nor does it suggest that progress is being made in Kylie’s case.”

The group said the Australian government should concede it had failed Moore-Gilbert.

“Not only did they lose an Australian citizen in the Iranian prison system for the second time in three months, but 778 days after her arrest, Kylie is back at square one in the prison where she was originally held. Australia has achieved no progress in Kylie’s case in more than two years, despite maintaining that their strategy is working. If quiet diplomacy was working, Kylie would not be treated worse than any other foreign national held in Iran.

“The Iranian regime is running circles around the Australian government and this case is a shambles.”

Sotoudeh, an internationally renowned lawyer, was sentenced last year to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes. Khandan said she was suffering from a heart condition and he was hoping she would be granted conditional leave to seek treatment at a hospital.