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Source: The Atlantic

May 16, 2024

In the Game of Spy vs. Spy, Israel Keeps Getting the Better of Iran

Repressing dissent, putting innocent people in prison, flubbing operations abroad—Iran just can’t seem to get out of its own way.

By Kylie Moore-Gilbert

I am a member of a strange club that nobody wants to belong to, but whose numbers are steadily growing: innocent people convicted in Iran of espionage for what Iranian officials call the “tyrannical Zionist entity” (in other words, Israel). Many among us are foreigners—businesspeople, journalists, tourists, and academics like myself, who traveled to Iran for what they thought would be a brief visit, only to find themselves thrown in prison on dubious charges.

The European Union diplomat Johan Floderus, a Swedish citizen, is but the latest high-profile victim of Iranian hysteria over Israeli spies on its territory. Currently awaiting sentencing from a revolutionary court in Tehran, Floderus faces allegations of “very extensive intelligence cooperation with the Zionist occupation regime” and a charge of “corruption on earth,” which carries the death penalty. Sweden’s foreign minister has stated publicly that the accusations against Floderus are “completely baseless and false,” and the head of the EU foreign service has labeled him “illegally detained.”

I was convicted of espionage for Israel under similarly spurious pretenses in 2019. I had been invited to an academic conference in Iran as the guest of a local university, and was arrested by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport as I was about to fly home to Australia. I was handed a 10-year prison sentence, of which I served more than two years at the mercy of the IRGC before I was freed in a prisoner swap.

Kylie Moore-Gilbert is a political scientist specializing in Islam and the Middle East. She was detained in Iran in 2018 and served more than two years of a 10-year sentence before being freed in November 2020 in a prisoner exchange negotiated by the Australian government. Her book, The Uncaged Sky, will be published in the United States on October 24.  

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