Australian-British academic imprisoned in Iran begins hunger strike

Prisoner Kylie Moore-Gilbert has written to Scott Morrison to plea for her release

TOPSHOT - This undated handout photograph released by the family of Kylie Moore-Gilbert via Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs shows a portrait of academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who specialises in Middle Eastern politics with a focus on Gulf states, who has been held for a "number of months" in Iran on charges that remain unclear.
  One of three Australians recently revealed to be detained in Iran was identified by her family on September 14, 2019 as a Melbourne University lecturer.
 - RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / FAMILY OF KYLIE MOORE-GILBERT" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS == NO ARCHIVE

 / AFP / FAMILY OF KYLIE MOORE-GILBERT / FAMILY HANDOUT / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / FAMILY OF KYLIE MOORE-GILBERT" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS == NO ARCHIVE
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A British-Australian university lecturer who is detained in Iran on accusations of spying went on hunger strike on Tuesday after she begged the Australian prime minister for freedom.

Prisoner Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who teaches at the University of Melbourne, wrote a letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

The personal plea, which was smuggled out of Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, begged Mr Morrison to do “whatever it takes” to secure her release. In the letter, Ms Moore-Gilbert also revealed that she was going on hunger strike.

Ms Moore-Gilbert has been in solitary confinement at Evin prison for the past 15 months. She has been denied contact with her family for nine months, apart from a three-minute call with her father, the Herald Sun reported.

The Islamic studies expert was detained after being invited to Iran as a guest speaker at a university conference. She was later arrested at the airport after checking in for her flight back to Australia. Ms Moore-Gilbert was then accused of spying and was convicted and sentenced for 10 years. She tried to appeal the ruling, but the attempt failed.

The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported that Ms Moore-Gilbert had written two letters detailing her distress since being detained in the squalid prison last year.

“Please, I beg of you to do whatever it takes to get me out,” reads one letter to Mr Morrison, a devout Christian.

“I know that you’re a religious man and I ask that until that much-longed for freedom arrives, you remember me and my family in your prayers.”

“She’s been receiving consular assistance and had a visit recently,” Mr Morrison said on Tuesday in response to the letter.

“But I can assure you, and I know the extent that Kylie knows and we’re doing everything that we can do bring her home,” Mr Morrison said.

He said the Australian government was concerned for Ms Moore-Gilbert’s welfare.

Other foreign hostages have been detained in Evin prison, including British-Iranian national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. Although her daughter returned to the UK earlier this year, the dual national remains behind bars. The British government has said that it is much harder for it to diplomatically secure the release of dual nationals, rather than those of single nationality.

Australian couple Jolie King and Mark Firkin were detained in Evin prison for three months but were allowed to return home in October after the charges against them were dropped.

Before they were arrested, they had been blogging about their two-year trip on Instagram and YouTube.