Iran tried to make Moore-Gilbert a double agent

 

THE Australian academic who languished in an Iranian jail on unfounded spying charges for more than two years has revealed her captors tried to recruit her as a double-agent.

Kylie Moore-Gilbert endured a harrowing 804 days in prison, including seven months in solitary confinement, after being convicted of espionage, and says before her release the notorious Iranian Revolutionary Guard asked her to turn spy for Iran.

Kylie Moore-Gilbert was sentenced to ten years in prison after being convicted of espionage by an Iranian court. Picture: Sky News
Kylie Moore-Gilbert was sentenced to ten years in prison after being convicted of espionage by an Iranian court. Picture: Sky News

"I knew that the reason that they didn't engage in any meaningful negotiations with the Australians (for my release) was because they wanted to recruit me, they wanted me to work for them as a spy," Ms Moore-Gilbert has told Sky News in world exclusive interview.

She said the Iranian authorities directly asked her to become a spy "many times".

"(They said) that if I co-operated with them and agreed to become a spy for them, they would free me," she said.

"I could win my freedom."

Melissa Doyle’s world exclusive interview with Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert will air on Sky News on Tuesday. Picture: Sky News
Melissa Doyle’s world exclusive interview with Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert will air on Sky News on Tuesday. Picture: Sky News

Dr Moore-Gilbert described the move as Iran wanting to "have their cake and eat it too," by getting something out of a release deal with Australia as well as gaining a double-agent who could be useful in other parts of the world.

"I don't think they were particularly interested in spying on Australia," she said.

"They were more interested in me using my academic status as a cover story and travelling to other Middle Eastern countries and perhaps European countries, perhaps America, and collecting information for them there."

Kylie Moore-Gilbert was finally released from Iranian prison in 2020. Picture: iribnews.ir
Kylie Moore-Gilbert was finally released from Iranian prison in 2020. Picture: iribnews.ir

She said her value to the Iranian authorities, either as a potential spy or in a prisoner swap, gave her some "protection" during her time in jail.

"I think the Revolutionary Guards had told the prison, 'if anything happens to this foreign woman, who is of high value to us, then there will be hell to pay'," she said.

But Dr Moore-Gilbert still had to endure more than two years of the ten-year prison sentence.

In her candid full interview airing on Sky News on Tuesday, Ms Moore-Gilbert revealed the "psychological torture" she endured as a prisoner turned her "completely crazy" - but accessing her intense inner anger became her secret survival weapon.

Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert visited Jerusalem before her arrest in 2018. Picture: Sky News
Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert visited Jerusalem before her arrest in 2018. Picture: Sky News

The torment began immediately after Dr Moore-Gilbert's capture in Tehran in September 2018, as her captors tried to "break" her with four weeks of brutal solitary confinement in a tiny, freezing cell with no daylight, no respite or distractions, the lights on around the clock and constant noise.

Kylie Baxter and Ruslan Hodorov
Kylie Baxter and Ruslan Hodorov

 

It took a serious toll, with the academic - a University of Melbourne lecturer in Islamic studies - descending into what she called a "prolonged anxiety attack or panic attack".

Dr Moore-Gilbert said she was initially questioned daily by the intelligence arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, which had seized her as she sought to leave the country following an academic conference.

Interviewer Melissa Doyle will also tackle the issue of Dr Moore-Gilbert's intimate betrayal by her husband Ruslan Hodorov, who began an affair with her colleague with PhD supervisor Dr Kylie Baxter, while she was in jail.

Dr Baxter had been appointed by the University of Melbourne as a liaison support person to Dr Moore-Gilbert's husband and family while she was imprisoned.

It is believed Dr Moore-Gilbert was accused of being a spy in part because her husband was a Russian-Israeli.

She is now expected to file for a divorce.

 

Originally published as Iran tried to make Moore-Gilbert a double agent



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