Australia asks Iran about report academic moved from prison

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) – Australia is seeking information from Iran on reports that a British Australian academic who was convicted of espionage has been moved to a mystery location, the foreign minister said on Monday.

Kylie Moore-Gilbert was a Melbourne University lecturer on Middle Eastern studies when she was arrested in Iran and sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2018.

She was moved in August to Qarchak Prison, east of Tehran, but the Iranian Association of Human Rights Activists reported she was moved to an unknown location on Saturday.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said Australian Ambassador to Iran Lyndall Sachs had a consular visit with Moore-Gilbert at Qarchak “a short time ago” and Australian officials “are seeking further information” on the reports she had been moved.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade describes securing Moore-Gilbert’s release as an “absolute priority.”

Iranian state media and officials have not acknowledged Moore-Gilbert was moved. She is among a number of Westerners and dual nationals held by Iran that activists and U.N. investigators believe is a systematic effort to leverage their imprisonments in negotiations with the West.

Moore-Gilbert has gone on hunger strikes and pleaded for the Australian government to do more to free her. Those pleas include writing to the prime minister that she had been subjected to “grievous violations” of her rights, including psychological torture and solitary confinement.

Jessie Moritz, a friend of Moore-Gilbert, said the certainty was stressful.

“It is very concerning not to know where she is,” Moritz told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

“We are probably not going to know for another couple of days which is going to be a stressful period of just waiting and hoping,” Moritz added.

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