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Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert imprisoned in Iran is transferred to the ‘worst female jail’

An Australian university lecturer imprisoned in Iran has suddenly been transferred to what has been described as one of the worst female prisons in the world. 

Kylie Moore-Gilbert, a lecturer from the University of Melbourne, was arrested in September 2018 while visiting an educational conference in the country and later convicted of espionage. 

After being jailed in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran for almost two years, Ms Moore-Gilbert was earlier this week transferred to Qarchak prison, according to The Australian.  

Reza Khandan, the husband of lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh who was imprisoned in Evin prison after speaking out on human rights issues, posted online that authorities had moved Ms Moore-Gilbert for ‘punishment reasons’. 

Mr Khandan said she was able to send a message to him saying: ‘The conditions are very bad I cannot eat anything, I am very disappointed, I am so very depressed’. 

Ms Moore-Gilbert had been at Tehran airport waiting to fly home to Melbourne when she was detained by Iranian authorities.  

The dual UK-Australian national is understood to have been sentenced to ten years for spying. 

She has claimed Iran had tried to recruit her as a spy and she was shown two sentences by authorities, one with 13 months’ imprisonment and the other a decade-long term. 

Both Evin Prison and Qarchak prison are controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Intelligence Organization. 

Qarchak prison was in December 2019 labelled by the U.S. Department of State as being responsible for ‘gross violations of internationally recognised human rights’. 

‘It is known for unbearable conditions, including regular assaults and inappropriate behavior of prison guards towards women, chronic lack of water, unsanitary living spaces,’ a statement from the Department of State reads. 

The prison reportedly has about 2,000 inmates, many political prisoners, but only 600 beds and head lice are controlled by shaving the hair of the woman followed by bleach baths. 

Last month Ms Moore-Gilbert was reportedly beaten by guards and heavily drugged after encouraging other prisoners to sing and hum in their cells. 

There had been reports she had attempted suicide but her family denied these. 

‘She has strongly denied reports that she has attempted suicide or that she is being tortured,’ they said. 

‘She seems to be in good health considering her situation. We love her and miss her. We ask that you continue to respect both Kylie’s and our privacy while we concentrate on getting her home.’

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade previously said Dr Moore-Gilbert was still a top priority.

‘Dr Moore-Gilbert’s case is one of our highest priorities, including for our embassy officials in Tehran,’ the statement states.

‘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.’

Foreign Minister Marise Payne has repeatedly raised the case with her Iranian Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif, a spokeswoman said.

It comes after letters smuggled out of Dr Moore-Gilbert’s cell in Evin prison, and seen by The Times and The Guardian, showed she begged to leave the restrictive unit where she had served periods in solitary confinement. 

Mr Khandan has been vocal about a number of political prisoners after his wife was jailed for 38 years in 2019 for political reasons. 

‘[Ms Moore-Gilbert’s situation] is absolutely unbearable … we don’t know what has happened to her in these past two years,’ he has previously said. 

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