The government of Iran has released Australian professor Kylie Moore-Gilbert two years after imprisoning her on espionage charges, exchanging her for three Iranian men imprisoned in Thailand after a failed bomb plot against Israeli diplomats.
As a professor of Middle Eastern studies at Melbourne University, Moore-Gilbert had entered Iran in 2018 for an academic conference. During her departure, she was arrested at the Tehran airport and charged with spying. After a secret trial, she was sentenced to 10 years in an Iranian prison.
"I am an innocent woman," Moore-Gilbert wrote in letters smuggled out of her prison last year, "[and] have been imprisoned for a crime I have not committed and for which there is no real evidence."
The U.N. has condemned Iran's practice of holding Westerners on vague espionage charges and using the captives as leverage for prisoner exchanges or favors. Moore-Gilbert herself asserted in letters to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison that she was being held to extort the Australian government.
She also said she was being subjected to "psychological torture and spending prolonged periods of time in solitary confinement."
Moore-Gilbert was exchanged for three Iranian citizens who had been imprisoned in Thailand for a terrorist plot on Valentines Day in 2012 that the Israeli government says was aimed at its diplomats in the country. These individuals – Masoud Sedaghatzadeh, Saeid Moradi, and Mohammad Khazaei – were arrested after explosives accidentally exploded in their Bangkok apartment.
When Thai police responded, Moradi threw one of the bombs at officers and was severely injured in the resulting explosion, losing both of his legs. He was sentenced to life for attempted murder.
Khazaei was subsequently captured at the Bangkok airport, while Sedaghatzadeh was captured in Malaysia and extradited back to Thailand.
While the Thai government has denied the prisoner exchange, Iranian TV showed Moore-Gilbert leaving in a van while the three men were welcomed by Iranian officials.
"An Iranian businessman and two Iranian citizens who were detained abroad on baseless charges were exchanged for a dual national spy named Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who worked for the Zionist regime," said the government-run Young Journalist Club.
Despite her treatment at the hands of the regime, Moore-Gilbert said her affections for the Iranian people remain strong.
"I have nothing but respect, love, and admiration for the great nation of Iran and its warm-hearted, generous and brave people," she said. "It is with bittersweet feelings that I depart your country, despite the injustices which I have been subjected to."