/ 10 March 2021

Dark days for Aussies in arbitrary detention

The silence over Australian academic Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert’s detention in Iran on spying charges led to a 10-year sentence and poor treatment, she told Sky News last night. Released in a prisoner swap deal in November last year, the 33yo Islamic studies expert told former Sunrise host Mel Doyle (they share an agent…) that she told her family to talk to the media about her case. But stories didn’t appear for more than a year because the government had asked for silence as they negotiated with Iranian officials. It’s a sensitive issue for our Foreign Affairs officials handling several cases involving detained Aussies, including another academic who is behind bars in Iran. There was no official response from DFAT last night except to say they were glad she was home.

That the 804 days in detention were brutal after she was arrested at Tehran airport in 2018 as she tried to leave following a conference. It included 7 months in solitary confinement and weeks in a room that was “a 2-by-2 metre box – there is no toilet, there is no television.” She was subjected to interrogations, she was beaten by guards once but not physically tortured, and the Revolutionary Guard tried to recruit her as a spy in return for her freedom. She says she nearly escaped once by didn’t run because she had nowhere to go. Overall, she “felt “broken. And things haven’t been easy coming home, either. On arrival in Australia, she learned her husband had been having an affair with one of her colleagues – and she hasn’t spoken to either of them. She is now filing for a divorce.

Funny you ask… The Sydney economics professor/top adviser to de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her government was detained because he was caught trying to flee the country with “secret state financial information”, military leader Min Aung Hlaing said yesterday. “Of course he had state financial information. How could he do his job without it?” former Australian ambassador to Myanmar, Nicholas Coppel responded. The Department of Foreign Affairs said they “continue to call on Myanmar to immediately release Professor Turnell and allow him to return to his family in Australia.”

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