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Australia Kylie Moore-Gilbert has been released in exchange for three Iranian men — who are they?

07:15  26 november  2020
07:15  26 november  2020 Source:   abc.net.au

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a group of people looking at the camera: The three former Iranian detainees were greeted by a large welcome party in Tehran. (Supplied: Irib News) © Provided by ABC NEWS The three former Iranian detainees were greeted by a large welcome party in Tehran. (Supplied: Irib News)

British-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert is now departing Iran after spending more than 800 days in prison.

Two videos released by Iranian state television showed the Melbourne University Middle East specialist in transit, with the latest video showing her boarding what appears to be an Australian Government-chartered jet.

Dr Moore-Gilbert was sent to Tehran's Evin Prison in September 2018 and sentenced to 10 years on espionage charges — which she has always denied.

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International pressure on Iran to secure Dr Moore-Gilbert's release escalated in recent months, following reports that her health was deteriorating during long stretches of solitary confinement and that she had been transferred to the notorious Qarchak Prison, east of Tehran.

To secure her freedom, the academic was reportedly released in exchange for three Iranians held abroad.

Here's what we know about them so far.

What do we know about the prisoners?

The identities of the three prisoners have not been officially revealed, but several media outlets reported they are Saeid Moradi, Mohammad Khazaei and Masoud Sedaghat Zadeh.

The prisoners have been held in Thailand on charges of having planned to assassinate Israeli officials in Bangkok in 2012.

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Their cover was blown after a botched explosion in their rented house, which resulted both of Mr Moradi's legs being blown off.

Vision from Dr Moore-Gilbert's exchange at Tehran Airport showed one former prisoner in a wheelchair.

On Iranian state TV the three men were described "economic activists" who were jailed on false charges, without further elaboration.

"There are very strong indications that at least two of them came out of custody in prisons in Thailand," Hadi Ghaemi, executive director Centre for Human Rights in Iran, told Radio National Breakfast this morning.

"Contrary to Iranian media reports they were businessmen who were imprisoned for busting sanctions against Iran there is no record of anybody being imprisoned in Thailand for that.

"However, we do know that seven-to-eight years ago, there was a group of Iranian agents bent on carrying a terrorist activity in Thailand. And two of them got detained."

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  Inside the effort to get Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert home Nick Warner, the head of Australia's intelligence community, successfully negotiated an apparent prisoner swap deal with Iran. Doctor Moore-Gilbert was serving a ten year sentence on trumped-up espionage charges, and had been in jail since September 2018.The charges reportedly stemmed from the Iranian authorities' belief that she was a spy for Israel because of her relationship with an Israeli citizen.Mr Warner is understood to have used his extensive contacts in ongoing discussions with the Iranian regime to secure her eventual release, according to The Australian.

Who was responsible for facilitating the release?

Australia.

In a statement, Dr Moore-Gilbert thanked the Australian Government for working to secure her release and her supporters throughout the "long and traumatic ordeal".

This morning, Foreign Minister Marise Payne said she was "extremely pleased and relieved" to advise that Dr Moore-Gilbert had been released and would soon be reunited with her family.

She said the release was achieved through "diplomatic engagement" with the Iranian Government. Australia, unlike the US and Canada, has an embassy in Tehran.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison declined to comment on whether Dr Moore-Gilbert's release was a prisoner swap, but confirmed there were no Iranian prisoners released in Australia, in an interview with the Nine network on Thursday morning.

Why were they exchanged?

While Tehran has said their men were jailed on false charges, rights groups have said the Islamic Republic routinely jails foreign and dual nationals to use them as geopolitical bargaining chips.

This is known as hostage diplomacy, which has garnered global attention in recent years as China has been also accused of arbitrarily detaining foreigners and dual-nationals for political gain.

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"What Australia's Foreign Minister euphemistically described as 'diplomatic engagement' surely is Iran's deplorable use of hostage diplomacy," Elaine Pearson, director of Human Rights Watch Australia, said in a press release.

"There is a clear pattern by Iran's government to arbitrarily detain foreign and dual-nationals to use them in bargaining chips is negotiations with other states."

Both Tehran and Beijing do not recognise dual citizenship, and have detained or imprisoned numerous people with foreign passports.

In China, this includes the Chinese-Australian journalist Cheng Lei, and Chinese-Australian writer Yang Henjun.

In Iran, a raft of dual British-Iranian nationals remain imprisoned, including Swedish-Iranian doctor Ahmadreza Djalali, who faces execution after Tehran convicted him of spying for Israel.

These are charges that he and his family deny, and they have recently said he faces the death penalty.

As Dr Moore-Gilbert was released overnight, Iran rejected an appeal by Sweden for it to not enforce the death sentence given to Djalali.

Are there any implications in dealing with Iran like this?

It remains unclear, as the Australian Government has been tight-lipped about circumstances surrounding the deal.

Earlier on Thursday, Mr Morrison told reporters the arrangement had been discreet so as to protect other Australians in "very complex and difficult arrangements".

When asked if Australia discussed the deal with Israel, Senator Payne said she would not comment on "diplomatic discussions".

But opaqueness is not good enough for some observers who have said the deal could embolden Iran's hostage diplomacy, such as veteran Middle East correspondent and Iran specialist, Farnaz Fassihi.

"If Iran-Australia made a deal for prisoners held in Thailand, this sets a precedent for Iran to take citizens of one country hostage and make demands globally beyond country of their citizenship," Ms Fassihi said on Twitter.

"Australia should come forward with answers and details."

ABC

Schapelle Corby's fixer helped orchestrate academic's Iran extraction .
The mysterious security consultant who masterminded Schapelle Corby departure from a Bali prison has also played a major role extracting Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert. The Melbourne University Middle Eastern studies lecturer was finally freed after 804 days behind bars in an Iranian jail on trumped-up charges of spying for Israel.But it's been revealed Ms Moore-Gilbert was moved to a Tehran safehouse earlier this month as prisoner-swap negotiation played out between Australia, Iran and Thailand.

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