Iran admits to jailing Aussie academic
IRAN has confirmed the detention of Australian academic Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert for the first time, almost a year after her arrest.
Abbas Mousavi, a spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry, told a press conference in Iran on Monday (local time) that the academic was in custody.
He was asked about three Australians, including travel bloggers Jolie King and Mark Firkin, who were arrested for flying a drone about 10 weeks ago.
Mr Mousavi, according to a translated statement, said: "I don't know about three (Australian) citizens. There is one I know about last year who was arrested because of spying for a foreign enemy government, but I don't know about the other two."
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade released a statement from Dr Moore-Gilbert's family at the weekend confirming her arrest.
The family said it has been in close contact with Australian authorities.
Iran has arrested at least 30 foreigners, or citizens with dual nationality, since 2014.
There are claims that Dr Moore-Gilbert was arrested to be used as a bargaining chip in a prisoner swap.
Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian was released in 2016 as part of a prisoner swap. The dual national American-Iranian had spent more than a year in custody.
Dr Moore-Gilbert has spent almost a year in solitary confinement in Tehran's notorious Evin prison.
Solitary confinement prisoners are blindfolded when moving about the prison, have only a blanket to sleep on and lights are left on 24 hours a day.
Ms King is being held at the same prison as Dr Moore-Gilbert but she is in the general population.
Few details have been released about Mr Firkin's treatment.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne told the Senate last week: "Since they were detained, the Australian Government has been pressing the Iranian Government for their release. I have communicated with my Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister Zarif, many times about these cases, including through face-to-face meetings."
TORTUROUS CONDITIONS REVEALED
Meanwhile, the horrendous conditions Dr Moore-Gilbert is enduring can be revealed amid calls for the Australian Government to demand Iran's president Hassan Rouhani order for her to be moved out of solitary confinement.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne is due to attend a United Nations conference in New York next week (from September 24) alongside President Rouhani.
It comes as oil prices soared following attacks on Saudi Arabian oil plants, which knocked out five per cent of the world's supply.
Iran has denied involvement.
London-based Richard Ratcliffe, whose wife Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is locked up in the same prison as Dr Moore-Gilbert and Australian blogger Jolie King, has revealed the shocking conditions in solitary confinement.
Mr Radcliffe said solitary confinement at the prison was cruel.
"In solitary there is no bed there, it's a room. You've got three blankets, one for your pillow, one for your mattress and one as your cover," he said.
"In Nazanin's case there was no windows, a light on above her the whole time."
Prisoners are also told that their family has abandoned them and that it was their fault they were jailed, as guards systematically break a prisoner's resolve to get them to incriminate themselves.
Other prisoners are also sent in as spies to gather evidence against frightened prisoners.
"They are practised at managing a hostage for a long time," Mr Ratcliffe said.
It was unclear whether Dr Moore-Gilbert has been able to contact her family, with some prisoners allowed supervised phone calls from solitary confinement.
"Nazanin was in there for eight and a half months, goodness me did she have scars when she came out," Mr Radcliffe said.
"Kylie has been there longer, that in … itself is torture. The Australian Government … are all going to be meeting at the UN next week.
"They should be extracting a promise from President Rouhani that he's going to make sure she gets out of solitary."
Dr Moore-Gilbert was a dux of her high school All Saints College in Bathurst, New South Wales, graduated from Cambridge University and completed her doctorate at the University of Melbourne where she was working as a lecturer on the Middle East.
Families of other foreigners or dual nationals held in Iran, which according to a submission to the United Nations numbered at least 30 since 2014, will head to New York to lobby for stronger action next week.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian national, was sentenced to five years' jail for membership of associations that worked against the Iranian state.
She was locked up in April 2016 so should be due for release in 2021.
Prisoners in the general population of Evin prison, where Ms King, a British-Australian dual national, is now being held, are allowed some conditions including weekly visits, and regular phone calls, including international calls.
Details of the conditions of Mr Firkin, her Australian boyfriend, who was also detained after they were allegedly caught flying a drone to document their travel plans, have not been released.
Dr Moore-Gilbert's family released a statement through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade over the weekend, confirming her detention.
"We have been and continue to be in close contact with the Australian Government," the statement said.
"Our family thanks the Government and the University of Melbourne for their ongoing support at this distressing and sensitive time. We believe that the best chance of securing Kylie's safe return is through diplomatic channels."
A spokesman for Foreign Minister Marie's Payne declined to comment on its handling of Dr Moore-Gilbert's case.