One of the British-Australian women arrested and detained in Iran has been named as Jolie King, a travel blogger on holiday with her fiancee.
Ms King was camping with Mark Firkin near a military site in Jajrood near Tehran when the pair were arrested by the Revolutionary Guard on August 9.
The couple, who live in Perth, Western Australia, had been travelling across Asia for months, chronicling their journey regularly on YouTube and Instagram. An Iranian television station reported they were arrested for flying a drone without a licence.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on Thursday released a statement from the couple’s families which said: “Our families hope to see Mark and Jolie safely home as soon as possible. We have no further comment to make at this stage and ask that the media respects our privacy at this difficult time.”
Friends became worried when they stopped posting updates in July, it is understood.
On their Instagram page, the couple say they are currently “taking a break”. Their last update shows their jeep parked in a remote area of Kyrgyzstan, after travelling through South East Asia and Pakistan.
Their final destination was the UK. One source close to Ms King said the couple had “no idea” that they were at risk of arrest while travelling through Iran.
In her last update on Instagram, Ms King wrote: “One thing that constantly blows me away is how friendly people can be to complete strangers.”
Ms King is understood to be held on the same ward in Evin Prison as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British-Iranian mother of one, who has been held on spying charges since 2016.
She has not been granted access to the Australian ambassador despite repeated requests, on human rights group said.
Richard Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Nazanin’s husband, accused the Iranaians of pursuing “state-sponsored kidnap”.
“The British government must do more to stop our citizens being used as political pawns by the Iranian government,” he told The Telegraph.
The Iranians have told Ms King that she will be offered as part of a prisoner swap for an Iranian mother currently held in the US, it is understood.
Negar Ghodskani, 40, was arrested on a US warrant in Australia in 2017 after being accused of being part of a conspiracy to evade US sanctions.
She gave birth to a boy in custody in Adelaide, South Australia, while fighting extradition to the United States.
Last month the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, proposed a prison swap involving Ghodskani for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
“Nobody talks about this lady in Australia who gave birth to a child in prison, whose child is growing up outside prison with the mother in prison,” Mr Zarif said at an Asia Society event in New York
“I put this offer on the table publicly now: exchange them.”
The latest incidents are thought to be the first time British passport holders who do not have Iranian nationality have been imprisoned in Tehran in recent years.
Former Foreign and Commonwealth Office minister (Middle East) Alistair Burt described the turn of events in Iran as “deeply worrying” .
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think Iran does work on a basis of putting the pressure on those countries that are hostile to it, or it believes are hostile to it, and hostage-taking appears to have become part of the practice.
“It’s deeply worrying because those who are seeking a new relationship with Iran, those who recognise that Iran reacts under pressure not very well and are looking for an opportunity to change the nature of the relationship having secured the nuclear deal a couple of years ago, in which Iran had to make serious concessions. Iran now finds that broken by the United States, it looks to hit back.
“But the policy of taking – effectively taking hostages, that’s how it looks – means that it makes it very difficult for those who want a different relationship with Iran to get on the front foot with those who regard it as unremittingly hostile.”
DFAT on Monday updated its travel advice for Iran. It remains at a level of ‘reconsider your need to travel’, with the highest level (‘Do not travel’) applying in some parts of the country.
The other woman, an academic who had been lecturing at an Australian university, has been given a 10-year sentence, The Times reported, citing a source with knowledge of the cases.
While the charges against her also remain unclear, 10-year terms are routinely given in Iran for spying charges, the paper reported.
The Foreign Office declined to comment. It states on its website: “There is a risk that British nationals, and a higher risk that British-Iranian dual nationals, could be arbitrarily detained in Iran. All British nationals should consider carefully the risks of travelling to Iran.”
The news came as Britain accused Tehran of an “unacceptable” breach of international norms after it apparently broke a promise that an oil tanker detained off Gibraltar this summer would not deliver oil to Syria.
Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, summoned the Iranian ambassador on Tuesday afternoon following reports that the Adrian Darya 1, which was at the centre of a diplomatic crisis after being seized by Royal Marines in July, had delivered a cargo of crude oil to the Syrian port of Tartus.
Britain says Iran repeatedly gave assurances that the ship would not deliver oil to any EU-sanctioned entity in Syria or elsewhere before it was released last month.
Mr Raab said: “Iran has shown complete disregard for its own assurances over Adrian Darya 1.
“This sale of oil to Assad’s brutal regime is part of a pattern of behaviour by the Government of Iran designed to disrupt regional security. This includes illegally supplying weapons to Houthi insurgents in Yemen, support for Hezbollah terrorists and most recently its attempts to hijack commercial ships passing through the Gulf.
“We want Iran to come in from the cold but the only way to do that is to keep its word and comply with the rules-based international system.”
The Adrian Darya 1, known as the Grace 1 until it was renamed by its owners last month, was seized by Gibraltar authorities and Royal Marine Commandos acting on intelligence that it was bound for Syria on July 4.
Britain and Gibraltar said the move was to enforce European Union sanctions that forbid the supply of oil to the regime of Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian dictator.
It was released in August after a court in Gibraltar accepted assurances that the vessel would not breach the sanctions, and rejected a last-minute US bid to have it impounded.
But the vessel spent several days meandering near the Syrian coast and turned off its transponder before apparently making its delivery last week.