- "They are in good health and in good spirits," said the Australian Foreign Minister, noting that all charges on the two travelers were lifted.
- A student from Iran who had been in detention in Australia for 13 months was also released.
- The many arrests and subsequent detention of westerners by the Iranian authorities are causing big concerns that Tehran is seriously engaged in hostage diplomacy.
An Australian couple that was detained in Iran has been released, albeit as a result of “very difficult negotiations” with Tehran, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said on Saturday. Jolie King and Mark Firkin, from the city of Perth on the west coast of Australia, have subsequently been sent back to their homeland.
“They are in good health and in good spirits,” said the Australian Foreign Minister, noting that all charges on the two travelers were lifted. The couple had been detained in Iran for three months after being arrested for piloting a drone without permission. Hence, they were suspected of being spies.
At the same time, a student from Iran who had been in detention in Australia for 13 months, having been accused of circumventing US sanctions on military equipment, has been released and gone back to his home country in Iran. Iran’s state television confirmed the student’s release and subsequent return to the country. The student, Reza Dehbashi, a Ph.D. student at the University of Queensland, was arrested and subsequently thrown in jail for “attempting to purchase and transfer to Iran via Dubai state-of-the-art US military equipment.”
However, Kylie Moore-Gilbert, an academic, is still imprisoned in Iran’s Evin Prison after being accused of espionage last year. “She has been detained for some considerable time and has faced the Iranian legal system and has been convicted and sentenced,” Payne explained. “We are continuing our discussions with the Iranian government,” the Foreign Minister added. “We don’t accept the charges on which she was convicted, and we would seek to have her returned to Australia.”
Regarding the couple from Perth, King and Firkin had been documenting their journey through various parts of the world on social media over the past two years. Suddenly, the pair went missing from their fans and respective family members. This came after they posted updates from Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan about three months ago.
Taken photos of military facilities
Later it turned out that they had been detained in Iran. According to Iranian authorities, the two had taken pictures of military facilities near Tehran Province with a drone without a permit. They were therefore arrested on suspicion of engaging in espionage. The arrests took place after the Australian government announced that Canberra would support a US-led protection mission in the Persian Gulf by sending a frigate and a surveillance aircraft.
The many arrests and subsequent detention of westerners by the Iranian authorities are causing big concerns that Tehran is seriously engaged in hostage diplomacy, targeting the western countries and their citizens. Part of the reason, it is suspected, is due to the move by the US President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear accord that Tehran signed with world powers and Washington’s subsequent imposition of many sanctions on Tehran.
In July, Iran captured a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz and prompted the creation of a coalition with the US in the lead. The UK, Australia, and Bahrain are also engaged in the protection of shipping in the Gulf.