An Australian academic’s Israeli boyfriend was the real reason she was detained by Iranian intelligence officers as she tried to leave the country on baseless spy claims.
Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert was released in a reported prisoner swap deal early on Thursday morning after spending two years in some of Iran’s most notorious jails.
Multiple diplomatic and senior government sources have confirmed that Dr Moore-Gilbert was stopped at Tehran airport in 2018 after authorities discovered she was in a relationship with an Israeli citizen, according to The Age.
Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert (pictured) was released in a reported prisoner swap deal early on Thursday morning after spending two years in some of Iran’s most notorious jails
Dr Moore-Gilbert (pictured) being transported to a waiting plane to leave Iran after her release on Thursday morning
The University of Melbourne lecturer was freed after more than six months of high level negotiations between Iran, Australia and Thailand, led by the chief of Australia’s intelligence community Nick Warner.
Dr Moore-Gilbert was originally sentenced to 10 years jail on trumped up espionage charges, which both she and the Australian government rejected, and was released in exchange for three Iranian citizens held in Thailand.
Australian authorities including Foreign Minister Maris Payne, who met her Iranian counterpart and discussed Dr Moore-Gilbert’s case on four occasions, pursued a strategy of ‘quiet diplomacy’.
Dr Moore-Gilbert (pictured) described her release as ‘bittersweet’ despite the injustices she was subjected to in Iran
Kylie Moore-Gilbert (pictured above) spent more than two years behind bars in Iran after she was imprisoned on espionage offences
The country’s involved agreed not to publicly discuss the deal because of the sensitive diplomatic nature, however, a news website affiliated to state television in Iran first reported the prisoner swap.
On Thursday Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison repeatedly declined to discuss any details of Dr Moore-Gilbert’s release, saying only he was ‘relieved’ she was safe and that she wason her way back to Australia.
‘These arrangements to secure the release of Australians are very difficult to work through and are very complex.’ the Prime Minister said on Thursday.
‘For the reasons are protecting the safety of all other Australians who potentially can find themselves in difficult situations, the Australian governments practice has always been to do with the issues with a great deal of discretion.’
Dr Moore-Gilbert’s romantic partner was the reason she was detained by Iranian intelligence officers as she tried to leave the country on baseless spy claims
Her release took 12 months of intense lobbying behind the scenes, but ultimately Nick Warner secured the release of the British-Australian academic.
Mr Warner is understood to have used his extensive contacts in ongoing discussions with the Iranian regime to secure her eventual release, according to The Australian.
Meanwhile Australia’s ambassador to Thailand, Allan McKinnon, lobbied with Thai officials to release three Iranian terrorists as an exchange for the Melbourne University lecturer.
Dr Moore-Gilbert finally left prison on Wednesday and was flown home following a gruelling 804 days in some of Iran’s toughest jails, where she also spent time in solitary confinement.
Her family said they were ‘relieved and ecstatic’ while the lecturer herself expressed her ‘love and admiration for the great nation of Iran and its warm-hearted, generous and brave people’.
The three terrorists arrived back in their home country after being released by authorities in Thailand, where they were alleged to have plotted the murder of Israeli diplomats in Bangkok.
Multiple senior sources confirmed Dr Moore-Gilbert’s release owed thanks to a meticulously planned diplomacy agreement between Australia, Iran and Thailand.
‘Nick (Warner) has been a central player to this,’ a source said. ‘He knows the Iranian political system, and he has built crucial connections with the people who run the country.’
Dr Moore-Gilbert (pictured), an Islamic studies lecturer, was arrested at Tehran Airport in September 2018 by the intelligence arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps
Diplomatic sources confirmed ambassador Mr McKinnon was also a key figure in the strategy, knowing that the release of the Thai prisoners would be essential to secure her freedom.
He is understood to have spent months convincing people in meetings and even at social functions to get the Thai prisoners released – who the Iranian government called ‘businessmen’.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison refused to confirm whether the men – Saeed Moradi, Mohammed Khazaei and Masoud Sedaghat Zadeh – were part of a swap for Dr Moore-Gilbert.
He said that commenting on the circumstances of Dr Moore-Gilbert’s release could endanger ‘other Australians who may find themselves in this situation’.
Dr Moore-Gilbert, an Islamic studies lecturer, was arrested at Tehran Airport in September 2018 by the intelligence arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as she attempted to leave the country.
She was subsequently convicted on a string of espionage offences, and sentenced to ten years jail.
Despite her harrowing ordeal, Dr Moore-Gilbert refuses to blame Iran’s people for her wrongful imprisonment.
‘It is with bittersweet feelings that I depart your country, despite the injustices which I have been subjected to,’ she said.
‘I came to Iran as a friend and with friendly intentions, and depart Iran with those sentiments not only still intact, but strengthened.’
Nick Warner, the head of Australia’s intelligence community, (pictured above) was a key player in the release of Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert from an Iranian jail, reports suggest
Prime Minister Morrison also commended Defence Minister Marise Payne and Australia’s ambassador Lyndall Sachs for their joint efforts to secure the academic’s release, as well as ‘other agencies who have supported this incredibly important task.’
Ms Payne is understood to have raised the lecturer’s case on numerous occasions when she met her Iranian counterpart over the last two years, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
In exchange, the Iranian government made it clear they wanted their trio of prisoners back from Thailand.
Dr Gilbert-Moore will now quarantine for two weeks following her arrival back home.