Saturday 28 December 2019

British-Australian woman starts hunger strike in notorious Iranian jail

Cambridge graduate refusing food and water after appeal over 10-year sentence rejected 

A British-Australian academic being held in jail in Iran has gone on hunger strike after an appeal against her sentence failed.

Kylie Moore-Gilbert has been behind bars in Iran’s most notorious prison for more than a year, after being sentenced to 10 years on spying charges, which she vehemently denies.

The university lecturer, together with Fariba Adelkhah, a French-Iranian researcher, started refusing food and water on Christmas Eve, both protesting their innocence.

The Evin prison in Tehran, where they are being held, has a reputation for brutal treatment of inmates, including mock executions, beatings and psychological torture.
Ms Moore-Gilbert: 'The Revolutionary Guard have imprisoned me in these terrible conditions to extort me both personally and my government' ( PA )

The US-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) said the women were in a ward run by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, where British-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has also been detained.

Like at least nine other foreigners jailed in Iran, the women claim they are being held on trumped-up charges, the group says. In an open letter, the pair state that they have been subjected to psychological torture and human-rights violations.

Ms Moore-Gilbert, a Cambridge graduate and lecturer in Islamic studies at the University of Melbourne, has written about revolutions and activism in the Middle East. 

Her appeal against her 10-year sentence – a common term for spying – failed last week.

She has been kept in solitary confinement for much of her time.

A letter from the pair, according to CHRI, read: “We are striking not only to demand our immediate freedom, but to ask for justice for the countless, thousands, unnamed yet not forgotten men and women who have suffered the same fate as ours or worse, and have been imprisoned in Iran, having committed no crime.

“This Christmas Eve, we ask you to join us for one day in foregoing food and water to express solidarity with us, while we will continue our strike beyond Christmas.

“We hope we will be celebrating with you in more than spirit this time next year.

“Thank you for your support. It means the world to us and gives us the strength to keep fighting.”

In June, Ms Moore-Gilbert pleaded with Scott Morrison, the Australian prime minister, for help to secure her release.

According to CHRI, she wrote: “The Revolutionary Guard have imprisoned me in these terrible conditions for over nine months in order to extort me both personally and my government.

“They have also attempted to use me as a hostage in a diabolical plot to lure my husband, an Australian permanent resident (and soon to be now citizen) into joining me in an Iranian prison.

“There is no hope for a fair trial. Indeed a guilty verdict has been predetermined in a legal system wholly controlled by the Revolutionary Guards. I came to Iran as an academic researcher and consider myself a political prisoner.”

Trials in Iran’s secretive legal system are often criticised for lack of evidence and not meeting basic standards of due process.

In October, two Australian bloggers, Jolie King and Mark Firkin were released from the prison after several months of detention for reportedly flying a drone without a permit.

(Source: Independent)

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