Jailed British-Australian academic refuses Iran's offer to become a spy

"I am not a spy. I have never been a spy and I have no interest to work for a spying organization in any country. When I leave Iran, I want to be a free woman and live a free life."

A prison guard stands along a corridor in Tehran's Evin prison June 13, 2006.  (photo credit: REUTERS)
A prison guard stands along a corridor in Tehran's Evin prison June 13, 2006.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
British-Australian Kylie Moore-Gilbert, a specialist in Middle East politics at the University of Melbourne currently serving out a 10 year sentence in Iran's Tehran Evin prison, has claimed that she rejected an offer to work as an Iranian spy.
Ironically, the Islamic Studies lecturer's prison sentence surrounds charges of foreign espionage and violating Iran's national security - a charge which Moore-Gilbert vehemently denies and coincidentally has been the predicament a number of other foreign and dual nationals have found themselves in when visiting the country. She is currently being held in the same prison where a British-Iranian aid worker, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, has been jailed since 2016, also on spying charges.
Within the majority of these cases, the defendants are reportedly unable to receive any sort of diplomatic support from their home countries, are unable to contact their families and oftentimes have no other choice but to use assigned council throughout the trial due to strict Iranian law - which inevitably brings them to the will of the Islamic Republic and whatever sentence they choose to delve out, normally all carried out under avid international protest.
“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," Moore-Gilbert explained to her "case manager" in smuggled out handwritten letters obtained by the Guardian and Times. “Under no circumstances will I be persuaded to change my decision.
"I am not a spy. I have never been a spy and I have no interest to work for a spying organization in any country. When I leave Iran, I want to be a free woman and live a free life, not under the shadow of extortion and threats.”
The timeline of her letters from prison spanned from June 2019 to December 2019, and were formally directed to Iranian officials adding that Moore-Gilbert feared for her mental health and additionally requested to be moved out of the "extremely restrictive detention ward" or the 2A section of the Evin prison she has been held in for the majority of her sentence - a remote wing of the facility operated under the auspices of the Revolutionary Guards Corps meant to keep prisoners in isolation.
“I have been in 2A for almost a year and especially after my verdict, my health has deteriorated significantly. In the past month I have been to the special care at Baghiatallah Hospital twice and the prison infirmary six times," the letters stated. “I think I am in the midst of a serious psychological problem, I can no longer stand the pressures of living in this extremely restrictive detention ward anymore.
"My situation here is even more difficult due to the ban on having any phone calls with my family. I worry a lot about their reactions to my verdict but I cannot talk to them. This is really inhumane.”
Moore-Gilbert throughout the letters has complained about proper access to food and medication, adding that she is allergic to most of the foods offered at the prison and needs about $70 a month to be able to afford the needed commissary items offered within the confines of the facility - and has no way of obtaining said funding.
“I am entirely alone in Iran. I have no friends or family here and in addition to all the pain I have endured here, I feel like I am abandoned and forgotten, that after so many times of asking my embassy, I still have no money at all to endure all of this," she said.
Moore-Gilbert was tried and convicted within the Iranian courts in secret just over a year ago. She received conflicting sentences throughout her initial trial and appeal processes, one being a 13 month sentence which would have been the softer sentence including time served and the latter confirmed the initial 10 year term she was handed down - the Islamic republic decided Moore-Gilbert is to serve out the 10 year term, and she argued the suspicious nature surround the separate rulings.
“I am an innocent woman,” she told prison officials in Farsi August 2019, according to the Guardian. “[and] have been imprisoned for a crime I have not committed and for which there is no real evidence.
“This is a grave injustice, but unfortunately it is not a surprise to me – from the very beginning [of my arrest] it was clear that there was fabrications and trumped-up accusations.” She signed off the letter “Professor of Melbourne University and an innocent political prisoner."
Moore-Gilbert is one of at least five dual nationals being held in Evin prison. The Australian government has been requesting her immediately release through diplomatic channels since the initial charges were handed down, to no avail. Those familiar with the case assert that Australia should be more focused on the matter - if they cannot get the academic freed, then they should at least be working toward getter her moved out of the 2A isolation ward.
“The government has been working extremely hard in relation to the ongoing detention of Kylie Moore-Gilbert,” said Australian Foreign Minister Marisa Payne after meeting with her Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif last week. “We don’t accept the charges on which she has been held and are concerned for her protection and the conditions under which she is held.”
As it currently sits, Moore-Gilbert's release date is set for September of 2028.