Former Australian hostage Kylie Moore-Gilbert launches legal action against Iran’s president

Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert is launching legal action against Iran’s president Ebrahim Raisi in a New York court, alleging he has violated torture conventions. 

Dr Moore-Gilbert was tried in secret and imprisoned by Iranian authorities for 804 days and reported psychological torture, solitary confinement and dehumanising treatment.

The civil suit has also been lodged with other dissidents and former hostages, and has been timed to coincide with Mr Raisi’s appearance at the United Nation’s General Assembly in New York.

“The hope is that we will be able to serve him with those papers during his visit to New York,” Dr Moore-Gilbert told the ABC.

“President Raisi was the head of the judiciary during my sham trial, my psychological and at times physical torture, my conviction and the denial of my appeal.

“So the buck stops with him and he is responsible for all of the human rights abuses that I suffered through.”

The legal complaint is supported by the National Union for Democracy in Iran, the Atlantic Council, and is being lodged by human rights attorney Shahin Milani.

A man with a white beard, wearing a black turban, sits at a desk in front of a framed portrate of Ayatollah Khomeini.
Ebrahim Raisi was the head of Iran’s judiciary during Ms Moore-Gilbert’s trial.(West Asia News Agency via Reuters: Majid Asgaripour)

The document lodged in the United States Southern District Court cites “severe personal injuries and other irreparable harm suffered as a result of [the] defendants’ unlawful acts of torture against the plaintiffs”.

“The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (TVPA) provides a federal private right of action for both US citizens and non-US citizens against foreign national individuals for claims of torture and extrajudicial killing carried out while the individual was acting under actual or apparent authority or colour of law of a foreign nation,” the legal complaint says.

Dr Moore-Gilbert said she hoped the legal action would raise awareness of Iran’s human rights record.

“He is also widely considered to be a war criminal due to the killing of thousands of innocent political prisoners in 1988 when he was a judge on the so-called death commissions,” Dr Moore-Gilbert said.

“It is a bit of a stunt in a way as I don’t know whether the lawsuit will have any impact, but it is one means to try to hold some sort of account for this man’s crimes.”

Dr Moore-Gilbert was detained for more than two years after being convicted of espionage, a charge she was always denied.

She was reportedly released in exchange for three Iranians held abroad.


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