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While the Thai authorities declined to call it an exchange and Iran referred to the men as “economic activists,” the settlement freed Dr. Moore-Gilbert and saw the three men linked to a larger bomb plot against Israeli diplomats return home to receive a hero’s welcome.
Kylie Moore-Gilbert returns to Australia after her release from an Iranian jail yesterday. (AP)

Thai authorities did not say what role Australia might have had in the deal. Iranian state television said Tehran released Dr. Moore-Gilbert in exchange for three Iranians detained abroad.

The plane carrying the men from Bangkok to Iran had a tail number linking it to a private Australian air carrier called Skytraders, which describes itself as a “leading provider of air services to the government.” A company employee declined to comment when contacted by the AP.

The bomb plot of the three Iranians was exposed in 2012 when an accidental explosion destroyed the Bangkok village where they were staying.

Israeli and Thai officials have said the plot was aimed at Israeli diplomats in Bangkok, although Iran denied the allegations and the men were never charged with terrorism.

Mohammad Kharzei was imprisoned for 15 years in Thailand for his involvement in a bomb plot. (AP)

Two of the men, Saeid Moradi and Mohammad Kharzei, were sentenced in Thailand in 2013. Moradi was sentenced to life in prison for attempting to murder a police officer, while Kharzei was sentenced to 15 years for possession of explosives.

Moradi, a Tehran factory technician and former soldier, lost parts of both legs while trying to flee the village on a busy Bangkok street.

He was carrying explosives from the house and dropped them on the street while the police tried to arrest him.

The third suspect, Masoud Sedaghatzadeh, was arrested in Malaysia. In 2017, a federal court ordered his extradition to Thailand. Yesterday, Israeli officials had no immediate comment on the release of the Iranians. Iran’s report on the prisoner swap was scant on detail, saying only that the Iranians had been jailed for trying to circumvent sanctions against Iran.

A file photo of Iranian bomb suspect Mohammad Kharzei who was released by Thai authorities. (AP)

Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that the prisoners may have been released, but said Australia had none.

Chatchom Akapin, Thailand’s deputy attorney general, told The Associated Press that the Thai authorities had approved the transfer of the prisoners under an agreement with Iran.

“These types of transfers are not unusual,” he said.

“We transfer prisoners to other countries and at the same time we receive Thais under this type of arrangement all the time.”

Moore-Gilbert thanks the Australian government

Dr Moore-Gilbert was a professor of Middle Eastern studies at the University of Melbourne when she was sent to Evin Prison in Tehran in September 2018 and sentenced to 10 years. She is one of several Westerners detained in Iran on internationally criticized espionage charges that their families and human rights groups say are unfounded.

Morrison said yesterday that his release after 804 days behind bars was achieved thanks to the hard work of officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and the Australian ambassador to Iran.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Kylie Moore-Gilbert’s release from an Iranian jail was achieved through careful negotiations. (Nine / Today)

“The skill and experience of the people who have been involved in solving these problems is extraordinary.”

In a statement yesterday, Dr Moore-Gilbert thanked the Australian government for helping to secure her release and the people who campaigned for her freedom.

She described her two years in jail as a long and traumatic ordeal. He said he respected Iran despite the “injustices” of his imprisonment.

“I came to your country as a friend and with friendly intentions and I leave Iran with those feelings,” said Dr. Moore-Gilbert.

International pressure on Iran to secure her release has intensified in recent months following reports that her health was deteriorating during long periods of isolation and that she had been transferred to the notorious Qarchak prison, east of Tehran.

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