Melbourne University lecturer Kylie Moore-Gilbert, jailed in Iran for spying, has been moved for “punishment reasons” to the harsh Qarchak prison in the desert.
The dual UK-Australian national was taken to Tehran’s Evin Prison in September 2018. She denies all the espionage charges against her.
In a statement issued on Tuesday evening, a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson confirmed the government had been told of Dr Moore-Gilbert’s move and that her case “is one of the Australian Government’s highest priorities”.
“The Iranian Government has told us that Dr Moore-Gilbert has been moved from Evin to Qarchak Prison, east of Tehran,” the spokesperson said.
“We are urgently seeking further consular access to her at this new location.
“We hold Iran responsible for Dr Moore-Gilbert’s safety and well-being.”
Australian’s ambassador to Iran recently visited Dr Moore-Gilbert in Evin Prison, and she has had telephone contact with her family and the ambassador over the last several months, the spokesperson added.
Reza Khandan, the husband of lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh who is in Evin prison for her human rights activism, has posted on Facebook that Dr Moore-Gilbert was transferred in recent days to Qarchak women’s prison for “punishment reasons”.
Mr Khandan said Dr Moore-Gilbert was able to contact him to say the conditions at Qarchak were very bad.
“I cannot eat anything, I am very disappointed, I am so very depressed,” he reported her saying.
Dr Moore-Gilbert told Mr Khandan she had last spoken to her family about a month ago.
Qarchak is in the desert east of Tehran and is reportedly rife with coronavirus, is very overcrowded, has poor sanitation and not enough beds for all inmates.
The jail holds political prisoners as well as those who have committed violent crimes.
In May, Dr Moore-Gilbert’s family issued a statement saying she was in “good health and she had “strongly denied reports that she has attempted suicide or that she is being tortured”.
“She seems to be in good health considering her situation. We love her and miss her. We ask that you continue to respect both Kylie’s and our privacy while we concentrate on getting her home.”
Foreign Minister Marise Payne has repeatedly raised the case with Iranian Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif.
Dr Moore-Gilbert, who lectured in Islamic studies at the University of Melbourne, was arrested in September 2018 while at an educational conference and was later convicted of espionage.
She is understood to be serving a 10-year sentence.