Kylie Moore-Gilbert: Thailand frees Iranians ‘in swap with academic’

Thailand has freed three Iranian men jailed over a 2012 bomb plot following the release of British-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert by Iran.

Iranian media say the releases are part of a swap for the lecturer, who was held on spying charges she denies.

Two Iranians had been deported, while a third was pardoned in August, Thai officials said. The botched bombing in Bangkok was apparently aimed at Israel.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison described her release as a miracle, saying she seemed in good spirits when he spoke to her.

Kylie Moore-GilbertIMAGE COPYRIGHTAFP
image captionKylie Moore-Gilbert was reported to have been on several hunger strikes while in prison

“The injustice of her detention and her conviction, Australia has always rejected, and I’m just so pleased that Kylie’s coming home,” he told local network Nine.

Mr Morrison declined to comment on whether a swap had taken place, but said no-one had been released in Australia.

His government has been silent on the circumstances surrounding the deal, and some observers have said it could encourage Iran, which is accused of “hostage diplomacy”.

According to Thai authorities, the three Iranians were not exchanged with anyone.

Saeid Moradi, 29, (C), an Iranian suspected of involvement in the February 2012 bomb blasts in Bangkok, gestures to the media next to Mohammad Khazaei (2nd R), 43, during an apprearance at the southern criminal court in Bangkok on August 22, 2013.IMAGE COPYRIGHTPORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL/AFP
image captionMoradi (with fist raised) lost his legs in the botched plot and was jailed for attempted murder

The kingdom’s Department of Corrections said Masoud Sedaghatzadeh and Saeid Moradi were transferred back to Iran on Wednesday under a mutual treaty on prisoners. It named the third man freed as Mohammad Khazaei, saying he had received a royal pardon in August and was released in September.

The trio had been jailed over a plot that Israel said was aimed at its diplomats. It came to light when bombs apparently detonated by accident in a house in suburban Bangkok on 14 February 2012.

Moradi was jailed for life for attempted murder after he threw a bomb at police as he tried to escape. He lost his legs in one of the explosions. Khazaei, who was detained at the airport, was jailed for 15 years.

Sedaghatzadeh fled to Malaysia and was later extradited to Thailand.

‘Never been a spy’

News of the exchange first came on Wednesday in a statement on the website of the Young Journalist Club, a news website affiliated to state television in Iran.

“An Iranian businessman and two Iranian citizens who were detained abroad on baseless charges were exchanged for a dual national spy named Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who worked for the Zionist regime,” it said.

Video of the exchange was published by state broadcaster IRIB news and the Tasnim website.

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