Canberra denies exchange of Iranian prisoners for detained academic

Sydney, Australia, Nov 26 (efe-epa).- The Australian government denied on Thursday that it had exchanged Iranian prisoners in its territory for the release of Australian-British academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert, released on Wednesday after two years detained in Iran.

Iranian state television reported Wednesday that Moore-Gilbert, 33, was exchanged for three unidentified Iranian nationals imprisoned abroad.

“There are no people who have been held in Australia who have been released,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in a virtual press conference.

“The Australian government doesn’t acknowledge or confirm any such arrangement regarding any release of any other persons in any other places,” Mr Morrison said. “If other people have been released in other places, they are the decisions of the sovereign governments in those places.”

Australian media reported the three men were released in Thailand.

Moore-Gilbert, who was a lecturer in Islamic studies at the University of Melbourne, was arrested in Iran in September 2018 while leaving the country after attending a conference.

The academic, who in letters wrote that she had been subjected to abuse and even asked to spy for Iran, was sentenced last year to 10 years in prison for espionage and has remained behind bars until now. She has maintained her innocence throughout.

“Dr Moore-Gilbert’s release has been an absolute priority for the Government since her detention,” Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said in a statement.

Payne said that the government “has consistently rejected the grounds on which the Iranian Government arrested, detained and convicted Dr Moore-Gilbert. We continue to do so.”

Moore-Gibert in a statement thanked the Australian government and supporters, and said she has “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,” she said.

Iranian authorities have conducted several prisoner exchanges with countries such as Australia and the United States in recent years.

Last year, Australia released Iranian PhD student Reza Dehbashi Kivi, who was detained over allegations of exporting US radar equipment to Iran, which coincided with the release of Australian-British blogger Jolie King and her Australian boyfriend Mark Firkin. EFE-EPA


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