The family of detained Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert have denied reports she has attempted suicide in an Iranian prison, or that she has been tortured by the country’s Revolutionary Guards.
Moore-Gilbert’s family have not spoken publicly since the Cambridge-educated Melbourne University lecturer was summarily arrested at Tehran airport in September 2018.
But in a statement on Sunday the family rejected recent reports – from sources inside the prison – that she was being isolated from other prisoners, and cut off from contact with family and consular officials.
Moore-Gilbert has engaged in several long-running hunger strikes while in Tehran’s Evin prison, but she has not attempted suicide, her family has said.
“We have had a number of conversations with Kylie in recent weeks. She has strongly denied reports that she has attempted suicide or that she is being tortured,” Moore-Gilbert’s family said in the brief statement.
“She seems to be in good health considering her situation. We love her and miss her.”
Moore-Gilbert has been allowed a telephone call with her family this month. She has also had visits and phone calls from Australian embassy officials, although the timing of these is not clear
Moore-Gilbert, who has spent more than 600 days inside the notorious Ward 2A of Tehran’s Evin prison, much of it in solitary confinement, was convicted in a secret trial and sentenced to 10 years prison on charges of espionage. An appeal failed.
Under Iranian law, once a prisoner’s trial, sentencing and appeals are complete, they should be moved into the general section of the prison. But Moore-Gilbert has remained held inside the secretive Ward 2A, run by the hardline Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
No evidence has ever been presented of Moore-Gilbert’s alleged crimes, and the Australian government rejects them as baseless and politically motivated.
“We do not accept the charges upon which Dr Moore-Gilbert was convicted and continue all efforts to have her returned to Australia as soon as possible,” a spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said.
The Australian government was working to ensure Moore-Gilbert was treated humanely and in accordance with international standards, she said.
“We continue to believe that the best way to secure a successful outcome is through diplomatic channels and not through the media.”
The foreign minister, Marise Payne, has repeatedly raised Moore-Gilbert’s detention in meetings and in correspondence with the Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif. But sources in Tehran say Zarif has little influence in swaying the Revolutionary Guards who hold Moore-Gilbert.
Elaine Pearson, Australia director of Human Rights Watch, told the Guardian Australia had refrained from publicly putting pressure on the Iranian authorities, despite its insistence that Moore-Gilbert’s case was a high priority.
“One has to question the effectiveness of that quiet diplomacy when other more high profile political prisoners like UK citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe have been released on furlough but Kylie remains in prison. The Australian government should intensely press the Iranian authorities to release Kylie immediately and let her come home.”
Moore-Gilbert, a lecturer in Islamic Studies at the University of Melbourne, was arrested in September 2018 after attending an academic conference, at which she was invited to speak, in Qom.
Fellow conference delegates and an interview subject for her academic work flagged her as “suspicious” to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, who arrested her at Tehran airport.
Moore-Gilbert, a citizen of both the UK and Australia, has been publicly silent for months, since a series of smuggled letters were published earlier this year detailing the privations of her imprisonment, including months isolated in solitary confinement, and a shortage of food, medicine, and money to buy personal items.
“I feel like I am abandoned and forgotten … I am an innocent victim,” she wrote.
She said she had rejected outright an offer to spy for the Iranian government that would have led to her being freed.
“I am not a spy. I have never been a spy and I have no interest in working for a spying organisation in any country. When I leave Iran, I want to be a free woman and live a free life, not under the shadow of extortion and threats.”
Iran has furloughed more than 100,000 prisoners out of concern Covid-19 could sweep through the country’s overcrowded prisons, but Moore-Gilbert has not been among those released.