British-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert says Australia should have gone public with her Iranian imprisonment case earlier than it did and that she refused offers to spy for Iran in exchange for her freedom.
Cambridge-educated Dr Moore-Gilbert, 33, was jailed for 10 years on spying charges in September, 2018, and released last November in a prisoner-swap deal.
The former Melbourne University lecturer in Islamic studies served her sentence in two of Iran’s most notorious prisons including Tehran’s Evin prison – the same jail which held British-Iranian woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
In an interview which aired on Australian TV on Tuesday night, Dr Moore-Gilbert said during seven months spent in solitary confinement she had undertaken hunger strikes, contemplated suicide, and was interrogated and beaten by guards.
She also criticised the Australian government for its “flawed” policy of handling her case through quiet diplomacy in its initial stages.
“Had my ordeal been made public, there’s no way I would’ve got 10 years,” Dr Moore-Gilbert told Sky News Australia, adding that once her case was made public around the world “much greater attention was paid to my health and my condition”.
“The line being run by the government was that trying to find a solution diplomatically behind the scenes with Iran was the best approach for getting me out and that the media would complicate things and could make Iran angry and piss them off and make things worse for me,” she said.
Dr Moore-Gilbert said she had rejected repeated approaches from guards and officials to spy for Iran to gain an immediate release. She said Iranian officials had wanted to “have their cake and eat it too” by receiving diplomatic concessions from Australia while exploiting her role in academia for espionage.
“I knew the reason they didn’t engage in any meaningful negotiations with the Australians was because they wanted to recruit me,” she said. “They wanted me to work for them as a spy (and said) that if I cooperated with them and agreed to become a spy for them they would free me … that I could win my freedom (and) make a deal with them.”
Dr Moore-Gilbert also spoke of her devastation on returning to Australia to discover her husband of three years was having an affair. The pair are now estranged.
Saying she had known during her last months in Iran that “something was wrong” with her marriage, Dr Moore-Gilbert said its collapse was “in a way … harder for me to process and come to terms with that than it has been with what happened to me in Iran”.
Meanawhile, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was released on March 7 but is scheduled to face more charges in court on March 14.
She was detained in 2016 as Iranian authorities made widely refuted spying allegations, with the British-Iranian finishing the latter part of her sentence under house arrest due to the pandemic.