Freed British-Australian academic thanks supporters after Iranian release

  • World
  • Thursday, 26 Nov 2020

FILE PHOTO: Australia's Foreign Minister Marise Payne speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Department of State following the 30th AUSMIN in Washington, D.C. July 28, 2020. Brendan Smialowski/Pool via REUTERS

SYDNEY (Reuters) - A British-Australian academic on Thursday thanked her supporters and diplomatic efforts to secure her freedom after she was released from jail in Iran following more than two years of imprisonment.

Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who was detained in Iran in 2018 and sentenced to 10 years in prison on espionage charges, was released in exchange for three Iranians who had been detained abroad, Iran's state broadcaster IRIB reported.

The New York Times reported that the three Iranians had been held in Thailand since 2012 over a bomb plot. Thai authorities confirmed that three Iranians arrested at that time had been deported and sent home on Wednesday.

Moore-Gilbert, a specialist in Middle East politics at the University of Melbourne, said after leaving Iran that she was grateful for the work done to gain her release.

"Thank you also to all of you who have supported me and campaigned for my freedom," she said, in a statement released through Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

"I came to Iran as a friend and with friendly intentions and depart Iran with those sentiments not only still intact, but strengthened."

She has denied any wrongdoing.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday he had spoken with Moore-Gilbert ahead of her return.

"I have always believed in miracles and I'm just thankful for this one," Morrison told reporters.

"She seems to be in our own conversations, in quite good spirits, but I imagine there is a lot of processing to go through yet."

Once Moore-Gilbert arrives in Australia, she will quarantine in an unspecified location for two weeks.

A Thai immigration officer said three Iranians were deported on Wednesday.

A Corrections Department officer said Saeid Moradi and Masoud Sedaghat Zadeh, both jailed over explosions in 2012, had been transferred from prison. A third suspect, Mohammad Khazaei, had been released in September but had been held at the immigration bureau since then to await transfer, he said.

Moradi had blown off his own legs in a plot that authorities said was intended to target Israeli diplomats.

Thai officials said they were unaware of any exchange and were simply fulfilling an Iranian request based on a treaty between the countries.

(Reporting by Renju Jose and Colin Packham, additional reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat in Bangkok; Editing by Richard Pullin and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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