British-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert has said Iran tried to recruit her as a spy “many times” during her imprisonment in the country.
She told Sky News on Tuesday of her suspicions that Iran wanted to “have its cake and eat it too” by receiving compensation from Australia through diplomatic channels while also using her for espionage.
“I knew the reason they didn’t engage in any meaningful negotiations with the Australians was because they wanted to recruit me,” she said.
“They wanted me to work for them as a spy and said that if I cooperated with them and agreed to become a spy for them they would free me … that I could win my freedom and make a deal with them.”
Moore-Gilbert was arrested in Tehran in 2018 after traveling to an academic conference. She was imprisoned in Evin prison and handed a 10-year sentence following controversial allegations of spying for Israel — charges that she has consistently denied.
The Sky News interview is her first after she was released in a prisoner swap involving Australia, Iran, Israel and Thailand last year.
Moore-Gilbert questioned Australia’s diplomatic strategy. “I’m not convinced the quiet diplomacy case stacks up,” she said, adding that in a phone call from inside the prison, she had begged her family to talk to the media.
“I knew it was deliberately being kept out of the media against my wishes. I’ve been told the media knew about my incarceration but were told by the government to keep it quiet, because the line being run by the government was they were trying to find a diplomatic solution behind the scenes with Iran,” she said.
“I took a very different view of the situation based on my own experiences being inside there, but that was the view of the government, and the media played ball for months at the beginning.”
Australia’s government has dismissed the spying charges handed to her as “baseless,” and Iran has yet to reveal any evidence of her alleged crimes.
Moore-Gilbert labeled the charges as “ridiculous,” saying she “drew strength” from being detained on false charges.
She said her time in Evin prison involved seven hunger strikes, and at some points she considered staging escape attempts.
“I did contemplate escaping. But where would I have gone? What would I have done?” she added. “I didn’t speak the language, I was in a prison uniform … without someone on the outside to help me … I don’t know what I would have done.”