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Kylie Moore-Gilbert: Academic thanks supporters after Iran ‘nightmare’

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A British-Australian academic freed from an Iran jail last week has thanked friends and supporters for helping her to endure the “unrelenting nightmare”.

In her first statement since arriving back in Australia, Kylie Moore-Gilbert said she had “no words to express the depth of my gratitude”.

Dr Moore-Gilbert was arrested in Iran in September 2018 and had been serving a 10-year sentence on spying charges.

She was released in a prisoner swap for three Iranians, Tehran said.

The Melbourne University lecturer has consistently denied the accusations against her.

She had been travelling on an Australian passport in 2018 when she was detained at Tehran airport as she tried to leave following a conference.

Concerns for her wellbeing escalated in August when news emerged that she had been transferred to Qarchak, a notorious prison in the desert.

On Tuesday, Dr Moore-Gilbert said it was “heartening to hear that my friends and colleagues were speaking up and hadn’t forgotten me”.

“It gave me so much hope and strength to endure what had seemed like a never-ending, unrelenting nightmare,” she said in a statement posted online, adding that she was “touched” and “totally blown away” by the support.

On news of her release last week, Dr Moore-Gilbert’s family said they were “relieved and ecstatic” that she was free. She arrived back in Australia on a flight to the capital, Canberra, on Friday.

Last Thursday, Dr Moore-Gilbert said Australian officials had worked “tirelessly” to secure her freedom. She thanked them and other supporters who had “meant the world to me” while in detention.

The Cambridge-educated scholar – who was tried in secret – had endured “over 800 days of incredible hardship”, her family said.

“We cannot convey the overwhelming happiness that each of us feel at this incredible news,” they said in a statement released by the Australian government.

According to Iranian state media, she was exchanged for three Iranian citizens who had been detained in Thailand over a 2012 bomb plot in Bangkok, apparently aimed at Israel.

Thai authorities, however, have not confirmed that the three Iranians were exchanged with anyone.

‘I was never a spy’

In letters smuggled out of Tehran’s Evin prison earlier this year, Dr Moore-Gilbert said she had “never been a spy” and feared for her mental health. She said she had rejected an offer from Iran to become a spy.

“I am not a spy. I have never been a spy, and I have no interest to work for a spying organisation in any country,” she wrote.

She was later visited by Australia’s ambassador to Iran, Lyndall Sachs, who reported that she was “well”.

Dr Moore-Gilbert was reported to have spent long periods in solitary confinement and undertaken hunger strikes while in detention.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the release “was achieved through diplomatic engagement with the Iranian government”.

Iran has detained a number of foreign nationals and Iranian dual citizens in recent years, many of them on spying charges. Human rights groups have accused Tehran of using the cases as leverage to try to gain concessions from other countries.

British-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was jailed on spying charges in 2016. She has always maintained her innocence.

 

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55139933

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Covid: Brisbane to enter three-day lockdown over single infection

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The Australian city of Brisbane has begun a snap three-day lockdown after a cleaner in its hotel quarantine system became infected with coronavirus.

Health officials said the cleaner had the highly transmissible UK variant and they were afraid it could spread.

Brisbane has seen very few cases of the virus beyond quarantined travellers since Australia’s first wave last year.

It is the first known instance of this variant entering the Australian community outside of hotel quarantine.

The lockdown is for five populous council areas in Queensland’s state capital.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the measure on Friday morning local time, about 16 hours after the woman tested positive.

Ms Palaszczuk said the lockdown aimed to halt the virus as rapidly as possible, adding: “Doing three days now could avoid doing 30 days in the future.”

“I think everybody in Queensland… knows what we are seeing in the UK and other places around the world is high rates of infection from this particular strain,” she said.

“And we do not want to see that happening here in our great state.”

Australia has reported 28,500 coronavirus infections and 909 deaths since the pandemic began. By contrast, the US, which is the hardest-hit country, has recorded more than 21 million infections while nearly 362,000 people have died of the disease.The lockdown will begin at 18:00 on Friday (08:00 GMT) in the Brisbane city, Logan and the Ipswich, Moreton and Redlands local government areas.

Residents will only be allowed to leave home for certain reasons, such as buying essential items and seeking medical care.

For the first time, residents in those areas will also be required to wear masks outside of their homes.

Australia has faced sporadic outbreaks over the past year, with the most severe one in Melbourne triggering a lockdown for almost four months.

A pre-Christmas outbreak in Sydney caused fresh alarm, but aggressive testing and contact-tracing has kept infection numbers low. The city recorded four local cases on Friday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government has pledged to start mass vaccinations in February instead of March as was planned.

Lockdown interrupts ‘near normal’ life in Brisbane

Simon Atkinson, BBC News in Brisbane

At 8:00 today I popped to the local supermarket for some bread, milk – and because it’s summer here – a mango. I was pretty much the only customer.

When I went past the same shop a couple of hours later it was a different story – 50 people standing in the drizzle – queuing to get inside as others emerged with bulging shopping bags. “Heaps busier than Christmas,” a cheery trolley attendant told me. “It’s off the scale”.

Despite the “don’t panic” messages from authorities, pictures on social media show it’s a pattern being repeated across the city.

While shutdowns are common around the world, the tough and sudden stay-at-home order for Brisbane has caught people on the hop here after months of near normality.

But while such a rapid, hard lockdown off the back of just a single case of Covid-19 will seem crazy in some parts of the world, I’ve not come across too many people complaining.

And I don’t think that’s just because Aussies love to follow a rule. This is the first time the UK variant of the virus has been detected in the community in Australia.

And nobody here wants Brisbane to go through what Melbourne suffered last year. Even if it means going without mangoes.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55582836

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Australia v India: Five touring players in isolation after restaurant visit

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Five India players are isolating as a precaution after a video on social media showed them eating indoors at a Melbourne restaurant.

Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Shubman Gill, Prithvi Shaw and Navdeep Saini – all part of India’s Test squad to play Australia – will be isolated from other players but are still able to train.

Both teams are investigating to determine whether bio-secure protocols for the tour have been breached.

The third Test begins on 6 January.

The tour is being played with restrictions to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

While in Melbourne, where the recent second Test was played, players and staff are allowed to leave their hotel but if they attend a restaurant they must remain outdoors.

An India supporter posted a video on social media of the five players eating indoors at a restaurant on New Year’s Day.

“The BCCI [Board of Control for Cricket in India] and CA [Cricket Australia] are investigating the matter and seeking to determine whether the outing constitutes a breach of biosecurity protocols,” a Cricket Australia statement said.

“In the interim, on the advice of the Australian and Indian medical teams, the aforementioned players have been placed in isolation as a precaution.

“This will include separating the group of players from the broader Indian and Australian squads when traveling and at the training venue.”

On Monday the teams are due to travel from Melbourne to Sydney for the third Test which will be played at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

No details were given on whether the five players would be able to play in Sydney.

Pant and Gill both played in the second Test, which India won to level the four-Test series, while vice-captain Rohit was expected to play in the third, having recently quarantined for 14 days to join the squad late after injury.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/sport/cricket/55514593

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Covid: Sydney announces new restrictions ahead of New Year

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Australia has announced new restrictions for Sydney ahead of New Year’s Eve celebrations.

The city is battling a worsening outbreak after months of next to no local cases. Officials reported it had grown to 147 cases on Wednesday.

The news comes amid anger over footage of young revellers seen on Sydney’s Bronte Beach on Christmas Day.

Immigration minister Alex Hawke said tourists caught flouting public health restrictions could be deported.

The virus’s re-appearance in Sydney a week before Christmas sparked a swift re-introduction of restrictions in the city, including clampdowns on holiday gatherings and a lockdown of the worst-affected region, the Northern Beaches.

On Wednesday, the New South Wales (NSW) state government announced further restrictions for New Year’s Eve following the discovery of a new cluster in a separate part of the city – believed to have spread during Christmas gatherings.

“We don’t want New Year’s Eve to be the cause of a super-spreader [event],” said NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

Households will now be restricted to only five guests from Thursday, down from the previous 10-person limit. Outdoor gathering numbers have also been cut to 30 from 50.

Every other state and territory in Australia maintains a travel ban on people from Sydney.

Sydney’s traditional New Year’s Eve fireworks celebrations will still go ahead but authorities have already banned group gatherings at vantage points around the harbour.

Australia has recorded 909 deaths and about 28,300 cases since the pandemic began – a number far lower than many other rich nations.

 

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55481851

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