Australia

Australian academic imprisoned in Iran deserves more attention than Julian Assange, Dave Sharma says

Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert has been imprisoned in Iran for more than two years. Source: Supplied

Liberal MP Dave Sharma says he believes the case of a detained academic in Iran should be attracting greater support from Australians.

Liberal MP Dave Sharma says the case of a detained Australian academic in Iran is more deserving of "national sympathy and attention" than Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

In remarks to the House of Representatives, Dave Sharma said he would like to see the "same level of commitment and interest" shown for Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert as has been demonstrated by Australians advocating for Julian Assange.

Speaking on Monday night, Mr Sharma said he had concerns about Dr Moore-Gilbert's ability to receive a fair hearing in court as the legal proceedings are secret.

He said this is in contrast to Mr Assange's case as he has strong legal representation who will advocate for him in an open court in Britain.

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie and Nationals MP George Christensen have visited Mr Assange in Belmarsh Prison where he has been held since April last year. He faces up to 175 years in prison over 18 charges relating to espionage.

Mr Sharma said he had met with the Iranian ambassador to Australia on Monday and has serious concerns about the legal process Dr Moore-Gilbert experienced in late 2019 when she convicted of spying and sentenced to 10 years in jail.

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"It was a trial that was held in secret, and at which she did not appear to receive independent legal representation. An appeal against her sentence failed."

"I know many in Australia are following the case of Julian Assange, including several members of Parliament who have taken a particular interest in this case. My own view is that I have faith in the rule of law, due process and the independence of the judiciary in the United Kingdom."

Dr Moore-Gilbert, a Melbourne University lecturer, has been held in the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran since October 2018.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne raised Dr Moore-Gilbert's case with her Iranian counterpart in January.

The state of the prison conditions faced by Dr Moore-Gilbert has been revealed in letters she wrote that have been smuggled out of Evin Prison.

She wrote on Christmas Eve to say she had been kept in solitary confinement for extended periods, had been allowed only one three-minute phone call with her family in nine months and had undertaken five hunger strikes.

"I beg of you, Prime Minister Morrison, to take immediate action, as my physical and mental health continues to deteriorate with every additional day that I remain imprisoned in these conditions," she said.

The comments from Mr Sharma come amid unconfirmed reports that three inmates may have COVID-19 in Evin Prison.

Dr Moore-Gilbert also wrote that she had travelled to Iran on a university program and had been doing research interviews.

"Unfortunately, one of my academic colleagues on this program and one of my interview subjects flagged me as suspicious to the Revolutionary Guards," she said.

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