Family and colleagues of Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert have renewed pleas for her release from an Iranian prison as they mark the “very bleak anniversary” of her incarceration two years ago.
Dr Moore-Gilbert, who worked as a lecturer in Middle Eastern studies at the University of Melbourne, was arrested in September 2018 at Tehran airport as she was leaving Iran after attending an academic conference.
She was subsequently tried and sentenced to 10 years in prison for espionage, charges rejected by Australia as baseless.
Her family thanked the Federal Government and public for their support but said it had been two years of “unimaginable pain”.
“We love Kylie very much and we remain strong and far from losing hope,” the family said in a statement.
“For those who also know and love Kylie, they will recognise her fortitude and strength. We know this strength remains with her throughout this ordeal.”
Foreign Minister Marise Payne said securing Dr Moore-Gilbert’s release was an “absolute priority” and efforts were continuing “without pause”.
“We do not accept the charges upon which Dr Moore-Gilbert was convicted, and want to see her returned to Australia as soon as possible,” she said in a statement.
“We continue to seek regular consular access to Dr Moore-Gilbert. While we work hard to bring her home, our utmost priority is on her health, wellbeing and safety.”
The University of Melbourne said it was also continuing to do everything possible to see her released.
“Kylie remains close in our hearts,” University of Melbourne vice-chancellor Duncan Maskell wrote in an email to staff.
“What she is suffering through her detention is unimaginable and her situation is deeply distressing to her family, colleagues and friends.”
Tweets of support under the hashtag #KylieIsUS circulated on Twitter.
“I urge everyone to not forget Kylie. This could happen to any of us,” wrote Raihan Ismail, a fellow researcher specialising in Islam and the Middle East, under the Twitter handle @FreeKylieMG.
“We want Kylie to know that she is NOT and will NEVER be forgotten until she is home.”
Professor Maskell said the University of Melbourne was in “close contact with the Federal Government, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Kylie’s family”.
“It is of small comfort to learn that Kylie has had telephone calls with family and consular access has been more regular since last December,” he said.
Moore-Gilbert closely watched in prison
Dr Moore-Gilbert was initially sent to Evin Prison, where she was often held in solitary confinement.
In July, she was transferred to Qarchak Women’s Prison, where Australia’s ambassador to Iran, Lyndall Sachs, was permitted to visit her in August.
“Dr Moore-Gilbert is well and has access to food, medical facilities and books,” the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said in a statement following the visit.
“We will continue to seek regular consular access to Dr Moore-Gilbert.”
Roya Boroumand, executive director of the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran, said it was important to keep diplomatic pressure on Tehran.
“Prisoners such as Kylie cannot afford the luxury of waiting,” she told the ABC.
“Every day that passes, the food, water, and general environment is damaging for Kylie physically and psychologically, harm that may be irreparable.”
Ms Boroumand said specific information about Dr Gilbert-Moore’s welfare was hard to obtain.
“Prison authorities have made sure there is minimal contact between her and prisoners who may leak information to the outside world,” Ms Boroumand said.
“Prison authorities have mandated two prisoners follow her everywhere to report if any prisoners talk to her.”
COVID-19 fears amid ‘appalling’ prison conditions
Qarchak prison is located in a desert area south-east of Tehran.
It is mainly used to incarcerate drug offenders but currently holds 18 political prisoners, according to the Iran Prison Atlas, a database compiled by US-based group United for Iran.
The US Department of State listed Qarchak as one of two prisons “responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of internationally recognised human rights” in a statement released in June.
Ms Boroumand described the conditions inside Qarchak as “appalling”.
“Food is extremely inadequate in quality and quantity and prison water is salty,” she said.
“Hygiene suffers with limited access to sanitary supplies and an overall absence of prison disinfection and cleaning.”
Last week, Abdorrahman Boroumand Center released a report on prison conditions inside the country amid fears of coronavirus pandemic.
“Every day, [Qarchak’s] sewer system overflows into the wards’ courtyards, filling the grounds with a terrible stench that draws in swarms of insects,” the report said.
As the coronavirus pandemic began sweeping through Iranian prisons earlier this year, Iran released tens of thousands of prisoners to curb the spread in overcrowded cells.
But Dr Moore-Gilbert was not among them, and fears for her health and welfare remain high.
The report said while the number of COVID-19 cases inside Qarchak prison was unknown, “scores of prisoners who tested positive have languished without much medical care”.
“Since the outbreak of COVID-19, prison officials have distributed disinfectants to prisoners once, and have never distributed additional cleaning or personal hygiene products,” the report said.
Iran has recorded almost 400,000 cases of the virus with over 22,700 deaths.
Source » abc