705 days woman ‘forgotten’ in Iran prison
Academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert boarded a flight to Iran in August 2018 to attend a conference and conduct a few research interviews.
Three weeks later she was stopped from flying back to Melbourne by Iran's Revolutionary Guard after one of the people she interviewed reported her as suspicious.
Since then she's been secretly tried and convicted of espionage and is facing a 10-year prison sentence in Iranian prisons.
It's been more than 700 days since she was arrested and the British-Australian dual national's friends and colleagues are tired of waiting for the "quiet diplomacy" of the Australian government to secure her release.
Letters smuggled out of Tehran's notorious Evin Prison earlier this year "sent a really clear message that Kylie felt she was abandoned and she wanted more to be done for her," Deakin University research fellow Dara Conduit told news.com.au.
"She felt she'd been abandoned or forgotten, which she certainly hasn't been, not by her colleagues and friends," Dr Conduit said.
She and other academics started talking about ways to keep Kylie's imprisonment on the agenda earlier this year.
They've now begun a campaign hoping to speed up Kylie's release.
"We hope that we can make a difference and we hope this will help to expedite Kylie's return," Dr Conduit said.
"She will come home, there's no doubt about it, but we hope she can come home sooner … When she comes home she can see how hard we fought for her. It's something we've thought about every day since she was imprisoned."
Dr Conduit told news.com.au Kylie was merely an "innocent pawn".
"This is a dispute between Iran and Australia. Kylie just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and Iran took her hostage as a useful tool to get Australia to do what it wanted."
The aforementioned leaked letters also contained a definitive rejection of her charge as well as a refusal to work with Iranian authorities.
"Please accept this letter as an official and definitive rejection of your offer to me to work with the intelligence branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps," she wrote in letters to authorities seen by the Guardian.
"I am not a spy. I have never been a spy and I have no interest to work for a spying organisation in any country," she said.
The Australian government has been pursuing a strategy of "quiet diplomacy" to secure her release.
"But in late July Kylie was transferred to Qarchak Prison, seemingly without the government's awareness," Dr Conduit said.
"This is a prison that's known as one of the worst prisons in the world for women, and despite Australia having a really good bilateral relationship with Iran since 1968 - and we've been pursuing this quiet, respectful diplomacy since she was arrested - all of that hasn't bought Australia so much as a courtesy call that Kylie's situation had changed, so for us that was a rally call."
"The news that Dr Moore-Gilbert has been moved from Evin to Qarchak Prison is worrying and deeply distressing to her family, friends and her university colleagues," Melbourne University vice-chancellor Duncan Maskell said in a statement last month, adding that the Government is doing all in its power.
Dr Conduit said the current approach is not working, and while she believes the case will eventually be quietly solved behind closed doors, she said: "Whatever is being done is wholly insufficient and so far has led to no meaningful improvement in Kylie's condition. In fact right now she's being treated worse than any foreign national imprisoned in Iran."
Australia's ambassador to Iran, Lyndall Sachs, visited Qarchak earlier this month and reported Kylie was "well and has access to food, medical facilities and books" according to a statement from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.