Australia has welcomed the release of British-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who had been serving a 10-year prison sentence in Iran for spying.
"I am extremely pleased and relieved to advise that Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert has been released from detention in Iran and will soon be reunited with her family," Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said in a statement on November 26.
Payne said Australia “consistently rejected the grounds on which the Iranian government arrested, detained, and convicted Dr Moore-Gilbert” and continues to do so.
Iranian state television said on November 25 that Tehran had released Moore-Gilbert in exchange for three Iranians held abroad.
"A businessman and two [other] Iranian nationals detained abroad on false accusations were freed in exchange for a spy with dual nationality working for" Israel, the broadcaster's Iribnews website said, identifying Moore-Gilbert by name.
The broadcaster's website showed a video of three unidentified men draped in Iranian flags and being met by officials, including Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi. One of the men was in a wheelchair.
It also aired images of Moore-Gilbert entering a building with the Australian ambassador to Iran.
State TV didn’t reveal the identities of the three Iranians, but several media outlets reported they are Saeid Moradi, Mohammad Khazaei, and Masud Sedaghat Zadeh held in Thailand on charges of having planned to assassinate Israeli officials in Bangkok eight years ago.
In Thailand, officials said on November 26 that they approved the transfer back to Tehran of three Iranians involved in the botched 2012 bomb plot.
Thai officials didn’t provide further details. Chatchom Akapin, Thailand's deputy attorney general, was quoted by the Associated Press as saying that Bangkok had approved the transfer of the prisoners under an agreement with Tehran.
“These types of transfers aren’t unusual. We transfer prisoners to other countries and at the same time receive Thais back under this type of agreement all the time,” he said.
Moore-Gilbert, a lecturer in Islamic Studies at Melbourne University, was sent to Tehran’s Evin prison in September 2018 and sentenced to 10 years on widely criticized espionage charges.
International pressure to secure her release had grown in recent months following reports that her health was deteriorating in solitary confinement and that she had been transferred to Qarchak prison.
Conditions at Qarchak have been described as abysmal, and reports indicated the jail has had a cluster of coronavirus cases.
In letters smuggled out of the prison and published in British media in January, Moore-Gilbert wrote she had rejected an offer to work with the intelligence branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.