Dr Moore-Gilbert was held in an Iranian jail for more than two years after she was arrested by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard upon checking into her flight home to Australia in 2018.
Convicted of spying and sentenced to serve 10 years on espionage charges, she spent 804 days behind bars including seven months in solitary confinement. She has always denied those charges.
In an interview with Sky News earlier this year, Dr Moore-Gilbert recalled being beaten by guards, injected with a tranquilliser and said she refused several requests to be recruited as a spy on the condition that she would be immediately released.
Source: Iranian State Television
When asked by SBS News about her fearlessness in speaking out about human rights abuses, she replied: “I don’t see myself as brave or courageous.”
“It is my duty to speak out in support of my friends who are still imprisoned in Iran, and to highlight some of the many injustices I saw during my time there.”
Iran has detained a growing number of foreign nationals and Iranian dual citizens in recent years, with human rights groups accusing them of using cases to try to gain concessions from other countries.
Dr Moore-Gilbert said she’s in “regular contact” with the families of several of her friends who remain in prison and some political prisoners who have since been released.
“Some are struggling, because they feel abandoned and forgotten,” she said.
“Continuing to apply pressure to the Iranian government and calling for their release is important, not only because it can lead to their actually being freed, but also because it boosts a prisoner’s resilience when she knows that someone on the outside cares about her fate.”
On this day, exactly one year ago, I passed the gates of Evin for the very last time, at last a free woman. I wanted to be doing this 👇but instead was forced to take part in my own little IRGC propaganda film, which needless to say didn’t go to plan (for them!) https://t.co/4nhfT4PzpK pic.twitter.com/eQOD5o1Oez
Dr Moore-Gilbert – who was reportedly released as part of a complex prisoner swap deal involving four countries – said the phenomenon of state hostage-taking is becoming a growing problem for Western nations.
A number of Australians remain in foreign prisons, despite little evidence of any wrongdoing.
Australian engineer Robert Pether has been detained in Iraq without charge since April after he and his Egyptian colleague, Khalid Zaghloul, were arrested in Baghdad while working for engineering firm CME Consulting.
Australian writer Dr Yang Hengjun has spent two years in a Chinese prison on espionage charges, despite telling a secret trial in Beijing he is “100 per cent innocent”.
Van Kham Chau was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2019 for being a member of the political party Viet Tan. He’s not allowed to speak to his family in Australia directly and any letters he writes to them are read by the Vietnamese authorities, according to Amnesty International.
“The sad reality is that there are many Australians detained abroad, and right now there is little-to-no cooperation between allies on this global issue, each country essentially reinvents the wheel and goes it alone,” Dr Moore-Gilbert said.
Dr Moore-Gilbert said while she remains grateful to the government for its efforts to secure her release, its initial tactic of quiet diplomacy was flawed.
Her case came to prominence after two other Australians, Mark Firkin and Jolie King, were detained “for flying a drone near the capital, Tehran”, nearly a year after her arrest. Both were released in 2019 after three months in prison.
“The Australian government ultimately pulled off some very impressive diplomatic acrobatics to get me released, and for that, I will always be grateful,” Dr Moore-Gilbert told SBS News.
“I have long maintained that it was a mistake however to keep my plight hidden for so long, and that media and a public campaign played an important role in securing my release.”
Fariba, a renown anthropologist at Sciences Po in Paris and an expert on Iran and Afghanistan, was arrested at Tehran airport in mid-2019, exactly 900 days ago. She is the very definition of a prisoner of conscience, arrested solely because of her academic research work. https://t.co/JFjiYCvFvc
Asked to respond to Dr Moore-Gilbert’s comments at the time, a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was “very pleased that Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert returned to Australia in November last year following more than two years of detention in Iran”.
“Every consular case is by its nature complex and is considered individually, with a strategy developed on a case-by-case basis. We will not comment on the circumstances of her release.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison also commented on Dr Moore-Gilbert’s case in March this year, telling reporters “I know she is deeply grateful for all the work done by the government and by the officials”.
“Now, Kylie Moore-Gilbert obviously can’t be aware of all the things that the government has been involved in to secure her release over a long period of time and the many other matters that were running over that period,” Mr Morrison said.
“There will be views about this matter, but what I know is that at all times … our top priority consular case was to get Kylie home.”
1/ On this day exactly three years ago I landed at Imam Khomeini airport, Tehran. Full of excitement, I couldn’t wait to explore Iran and learn more about its unique people and rich culture. pic.twitter.com/9kfQcaGmWn
Dr Moore-Gilbert is now part of international efforts to have Magnitsky laws implemented.
The Senate introduced Magnitsky-like laws on Wednesday which, if passed, would enable governments to sanction individuals in foreign countries who commit human rights abuses.
“I have an interest in an Australian Magnitsky act because of course, it would enable me to apply to have some of the individuals involved in my wrongful detention and human rights abuses while in prison to be sanctioned by my own country,” she said.
“The prospects for using Magnitsky laws to pursue human rights abusers in a number of countries, including Iran and others which arbitrarily detain Australians, are promising and I hope that parliament will pass an Australian Magnitsky Act before the next election.”
Dr Moore-Gilbert said the Canadian-led declaration against arbitrary detention earlier this year, which Australia signed, was “a symbolic first step.”
“However, there is a clear need for a more robust mechanism, whether encoded into international law or in the form of an alliance between like-minded nations, to punish and disincentive state hostage-taking,” she said.
“More can certainly be done, and it would make sense for Australia, as a middle-power, to join forces with other Western nations to pool their influence and tackle this problem as a collective.”