IRAN has released Australian-British academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who was serving a 10-year prison sentence for spying, reportedly in exchange for three Iranians, two of whom were convicted of a plot to blow up the Israeli ambassador and other Israeli diplomats in Thailand.
The Islamic Republic’s state broadcaster’s website showed video footage of three unidentified men — one of them in a wheelchair — draped in Iranian flags and being met by officials.
It also aired images of a veiled Moore-Gilbert entering a building with the Australian ambassador to Tehran, Lyndall Sachs, before taking off her face mask. She is later seen getting into a white van carrying a brown bag.
“A businessman and two [other] Iranian citizens detained abroad on the basis of false accusations were freed in exchange for a spy with dual nationality working for” Israel, the broadcaster’s Iribnews website said, also identifying Moore-Gilbert by name.
The broadcaster provided no further information on the prisoner swap.
A lecturer in Islamic Studies at the University of Melbourne, Moore-Gilbert’s arrest was confirmed by Iran in September 2019 but it is believed she had been detained a year earlier.
She has denied the charges against her.
It has been reported that two of the Iranians released in exchange for Moore-Gilbert were convicted of terrorism in Thailand eight years ago in connection with a plot to assassinate the Israeli ambassador and other Israeli officials in Bangkok.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said today than no prisoners being held in Australia had been released, adding, “The Australian government doesn’t acknowledge or confirm any such arrangement regarding any release of any other persons in any other places.
“If other people have been released in other places, they are the decisions of the sovereign governments in those places.”
He also said he was unaware of concerns over the reported swap being raised by the Israeli government.
Welcoming Moore-Gilbert’s release, Foreign Minister Marise Payne said she was “extremely pleased and relieved”.
She added that the release “was achieved through diplomatic engagement with the Iranian government”.
Member for Wentworth and former ambassador to Israel Dave Sharma, who had campaigned for Moore-Gilbert’s release, hailed it as “tremendous news, and of such relief to Kylie and all her family and her many friends and supporters”, while Member for Macnamara Josh Burns said, “The 800 day nightmare is over. Australia is ready to welcome Kylie home with open arms.”
In a statement, Moore-Gilbert thanked the Australian government – in particular the foreign ministry – and the embassy in Tehran for “working tirelessly these past two years and three months to secure my release”.
Thanking all those who had supported and campaigned for her, she said, “It has meant the world to me to have you behind me throughout what has been a long and traumatic ordeal.”
She added, “I have nothing but respect, love and admiration for the great nation of Iran and its warm-hearted, generous and brave people. It is with bittersweet feelings that I depart your country, despite the injustices which I have been subjected to.”
Wishing Moore-Gilbert “a joyous return home and a speedy recovery from her gruelling ordeal”, the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) said, “Unfortunately holding innocent people hostage in exchange for terrorists is typical of the tyrannical Iranian regime.
“This episode yet again demonstrates the need for Australia and other like-minded countries to continue to respond firmly to the dangerous and destabilising activities of the Iranian regime.”
AIJAC also warned that if reports that terrorists had been exchanged for Moore-Gilbert were correct, “they will again present a threat of terrorist violence to innocent people”.