The release of British-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert after over 800 days in an Iranian prison has been greeted with joy and relief in Australia and internationally. Her release came as part of an exchange for three Iranian prisoners.
Dr. Moore-Gilbert had been held in Iranian prisons for alleged spying since September 2018. Reports circulated that Moore-Gilbert was detained and charged with spying for Israel after Iran learned of her relationship with an Israeli citizen.
The University of Melbourne, where Moore-Gilbert was an academic, shared their relief at the news of her release:
We're delighted and relieved that Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert has been released from jail in Iran. VC Prof Duncan Maskell said Dr Moore-Gilbert is safe and well and in strong spirits, and the University’s first priority is her ongoing health and wellbeing. https://t.co/OQcT6ryF6m
— University of Melbourne (@unimelb) November 25, 2020
Her support group of friends and colleagues also tweeted:
We are over the moon that our amazing friend and colleague Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert is on her way home after 804 days in prison in Iran. An innocent woman is finally free. Today is a very bright day in Australia indeed! 1/
— Free Kylie Moore-Gilbert (@FreeKylieMG) November 25, 2020
Global Voices reported on her case in August 2020: Melbourne academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert remains a ‘political hostage’ inside Iran’s Qarchak prison
There is a well-placed concern for Moore-Gilbert’s wellbeing once in Australia. Jason Rezaian, who spent 544 days imprisoned in Iran, shared his thoughts:
I am thrilled to see that Dr. Kylie Moore Gilbert is finally free after over 2 years as a hostage of the regime in #Iran. As happy as I am, I know the trauma and bewilderment in her face all to too well. I wish her health, recovery, privacy and patience. pic.twitter.com/SxakqDf5eh
— Jason Rezaian (@jrezaian) November 25, 2020
He was also amongst those calling for an end to so-called hostage diplomacy:
It’s far past time for democratic allies — indeed all responsible governments — to work together to end state sponsored hostage taking once and for all, beginning with #Iran, long the world’s most egregious offender of this barbaric practice.
— Jason Rezaian (@jrezaian) November 25, 2020
The Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, in welcoming her release, claimed some credit for using quiet diplomacy, which has been criticised by some of her friends and colleagues. He refused to comment on any negotiations or other governments’ involvement. He stated that no prisoners in Australia were to be swapped.
The Iranian prisoners being swapped are believed to be three men convicted and held in Thailand on charges related to an attempt to kill Israeli diplomats. There have been the inevitable concerns about rewarding hostage diplomacy and undertaking terrorism-related negotiations:
Thread. Thrilled as we all are to have Kylie Moore-Gilbert released, there should be no illusions: #Iran‘s hostage-taking was just rewarded, yet again, with the release of proven killers, notably #IRGC‘s Masoud Sedaghat Zadeh, responsible for a terror spree against Jews in 2012 https://t.co/Jv3nMAPduS
— Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) November 25, 2020
The role of the Israel government has also been questioned:
Did the Australian Govt discuss the prisoner swap with Israel, given the three Iranians released in exchange for Kylie Moore-Gilbert's freedom were imprisoned over a plot to assassinate Israeli diplomats? FM @MarisePayne: “I'm not going to comment on diplomatic discussions”
— Stephen Dziedzic (@stephendziedzic) November 26, 2020
Many Australians have raised other human rights issues, which they believe should be addressed by Scott Morrison's government. Delia Quigley was one on those on social media reminding the Australian government of its treatment of asylum seekers, especially the use of long term detention:
There is no doubt that it is wonderful that Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert has been released from arbitrary imprisonment in Iran.
It all just seems a bit hypocritical as our govt celebrates this whilst they hold in detention those who legally sought asylum from places like Iran ?
— Delia Quigley ?️? (@DeeQuigDJQ) November 26, 2020
Karyn H, a campaigner for the release of another Australian, Julian Assange, linked the two cases. She called on the Australian foreign minister, Marise Payne, to step up on his behalf:
I am happy to hear of the release of Kylie Moore-Gilbert. I also look forward to the release of Australian citizen Julian Assange. His courage and tenacity is a real inspiration. It would be expected that you would work just as hard in your efforts to release Julian. pic.twitter.com/0qggIImJyx
— Karyn H⏳? (@H11Karyn) November 25, 2020
Moore-Gilbert thanked the Australian government and praised the Iranian people in a statement after her release:
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. I came to Iran as a friend and with friendly intentions, and depart Iran with those sentiments not only still intact, but strengthened.
She is currently in COVID-19 quarantine at an undisclosed location.