PM defends his handling of jailed academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert

Dr Moore-Gilbert was charged with spying in Iran.

Dr Moore-Gilbert was charged with spying in Iran. Photo: University of Melbourne

The Prime Minister is standing by his handling of the imprisonment of Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert in Iran.

Dr Moore-Gilbert has said she wished the Australian government had gone to the media earlier to try to secure her release.

But Scott Morrison said there was always plenty of quiet diplomatic work going on behind the scenes.

“Kylie Moore-Gilbert obviously can’t be aware of all of 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,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

“There are obviously things that sit within the national security dimension of what the government handles on a day-to-day basis.

“I am aware of those issues and have been directly involved in many of the decisions – in fact, all of the decisions – that ultimately ended up in securing her release.”

Mr Morrison said that at all times, Dr Moore-Gilbert’s release was the Australian government’s top priority consular case.

“Kylie is home and I probably more than most in Australia, other than her own family, could not be more happy about that,” he said.

“Her bravery, her courage, her resilience, is something extraordinary.”

Dr Moore-Gilbert wanted the world to know she had been arrested and held in solitary confinement in Iran, but the Australian government persuaded journalists not to publish the story.

She still doubts the government’s “quiet diplomacy” approach.

The Herald Sun reported Sunday that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard used Dr Moore-Gilbert in an attempt to lure her Israeli husband to Tehran.

The discovery that she had an Israeli husband led to Iranian authorities stopping her at Tehran’s airport as she prepared to leave the country in 2018 after attending an academic conference.

She was sentenced her to 10 years in prison for espionage.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade released a statement in May 2020 stating it believed the “best way” to secure Dr Moore-Gilbert’s release was “through diplomatic channels and not through the media”.

Dr Moore-Gilbert thanked the government for their efforts in securing her eventual release in November 2020, singling out Foreign Minister Marise Payne for praise.

She was released in December 2020 after 804 days behind bars on spying charges, reportedly in exchange for the release of three Iranians who were held in Thailand.

The Australian government, which has never confirmed a prisoner-swap deal, reportedly played a crucial behind-the-scenes role in bringing Thailand to the table and engineering the exchange.

Dr Moore-Gilbert vigorously denied that she has ever been a spy.

-with AAP

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