Iranian media claims newly freed Australian-British academic was Israeli agent

Iranian media claimed on Tuesday that an Australian-British academic freed from Iran on spying charges last week was an Israeli intelligence agent.

Middle East scholar Kylie Moore-Gilbert was released after 804 days behind bars in a swap for three Iranians linked to a botched plot to kill Israeli officials in Bangkok.

She was arrested for alleged espionage by Iran’s hardline Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in 2018, after attending an academic conference in the holy city of Qom in central Iran.

In new reports, Iranian media said Moore-Gilbert’s father was Jewish, that she had converted to Judaism in the UK in 2007 and had visited Israel many times since, Channel 12 reported.

The reports claimed she learned Hebrew and connected with an employee of the Shin Bet internal security service while in Israel. Intelligence officers then told her to shift her field of studies from Iranian involvement in Syria to opposition activities in Bahrain, the reports said.

The Iranian reports said Moore-Gilbert was trained for intelligence work in Israel, including learning Farsi and using encrypted communications, then was sent to Bahrain to collect information on Shiite opposition leaders in Iran.

She attempted to arrange a meeting with a Bahraini opposition figure based in Iran, arousing the suspicion of Iranian authorities and leading to her arrest, the reports said.

The Iranian reports conflict with previous information about her arrest and have not been corroborated by international sources.

Last week Australian media said that Moore-Gilbert was detained after Iranian authorities found out she has an Israeli partner.

Fairfax Media said the discovery of Moore-Gilbert’s Israeli boyfriend led to Iranian authorities stopping her at Tehran’s airport as she prepared to leave the country.

Iranian authorities sentenced her to 10 years in prison for espionage. The Australian government and Moore-Gilbert rejected the allegations as baseless.

In Bangkok, Thai officials said last week they transferred three Iranians involved in a botched 2012 bomb plot back to Tehran. While they declined to call it a swap and Iran referred to the men as “economic activists,” the arrangement freed Moore-Gilbert and saw the three men, who were linked to a wider bomb plot targeting Israeli diplomats, return home to a hero’s welcome.

In her first statement since arriving back in Australia, Moore-Gilbert said Tuesday she was “totally blown away” by efforts from friends and family to secure her release.

She thanked supporters from the “bottom of my heart,” saying they helped her through a “never-ending, unrelenting nightmare.”

“I honestly have no words to express the depth of my gratitude and how touched I am,” the 33-year-old said.

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