Australian Academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert Isolated for Months in IRGC-Controlled High-Security Ward
Iran Has Detained at Least Three Australians in the Last Year
September 16, 2019 – Australian academic Kylie Gilbert-Moore has been held for almost a year in Ward 2-A of Tehran’s Evin Prison, controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) intelligence organization, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) has learned.
“Little is known about the IRGC’s security ward except that detainees held there are cut off from the outside world and their access to counsel is severely restricted,” said CHRI’s Executive Director Hadi Ghaemi.
“The Iranian judiciary should allow these detainees consular access and guarantee their due process rights,” he added.
CHRI has learned that at some point during her incarceration, Gilbert-Moore threatened to go on hunger strike to gain access to a lawyer. It is not known whether she went on strike or if she has been given access to counsel.
CHRI has also learned that the investigation phase of her case is over, but it’s not clear why she has not been transferred to the public ward.
Also in Evin Prison, Australian citizen and travel blogger Jolie King—arrested in July 2019 along with fellow Australian travel blogger Mark Firkin—has been transferred to a public ward in the Women’s Ward within the past two weeks. Firkin’s location in Evin is unknown.
Although Gilbert-Moore was first detained sometime around October 2018, her family did not make her arrest public until September 2019. No Iranian official has publicly confirmed her case and details about it as well as her health remains scant.
“We have been and continue to be in close contact with the Australian government,” said her family in a September 14 statement released by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. “We believe that the best chance of securing Kylie’s safe return is through diplomatic channels.”
Iranian officials and security agents tell the families of detainees held in politically sensitive cases to keep their cases secret under the false premise that doing so will expedite their release. This enables intelligence agents to interrogate detainees while denying them their due process rights under minimal international pressure.
“I have communicated with my Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister [Javad] Zarif, many times about these cases, including through face to face meetings,” said Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne on September 14. “We met as recently as last week.”
Iranian officials have refused to comment on the case. “I don’t know about these three cases,” said Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi at a press conference on September 16. “There was one case last year in connection with espionage for an enemy state, but I don’t know about the two other cases.”
Moore-Gilbert is a Cambridge-educated scholar of the Middle East who was lecturing on Islamic studies at the University of Melbourne. Her university profile notes that her research was focused on the Persian Gulf states, authoritarian governance, and the role of new media technologies in political activism.
The charges she was detained under have not been disclosed.
Another academic, Princeton University scholar Xiyue Wang, an American citizen, has been serving a 10-year prison sentence in Iran’s Evin Prison since July 2017. In May 2019, the UN said Wang’s “arbitrary detention for nearly three years was a clear violation of fundamental rights guaranteed under international law.”
Iran is currently holding at least 15 foreign and dual nationals, according to research by CHRI.
Iranian officials have raised political grievances in these cases. For example, in July 2018 a judge reportedly told imprisoned Iranian-born British citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe that she was being held as a bargaining chip by the Iranian government to convince London to pay Tehran an old debt.