By Jubin Katiraie
Three Australians have been detained in Iran, according to Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) on Wednesday.
In a statement, DFAT said it was providing consular assistance to the families of the three detained, but would not comment on the cases due to privacy reasons or confirm whether the cases were related.
Australian state broadcaster ABC reported that one of the three is a British-Australian woman has been behind bars for almost a year, while the other two – a British-Australian blogger and her Australian boyfriend – were arrested 10 weeks ago while traveling through Asia, according to The Times newspaper in London.
The British-Australian woman who was arrested in 2018 was an academic who studied at Cambridge University and was lecturing at an Australian university. She has been sentenced to 10 years in prison on unknown charges and The Times said she was being held in solitary confinement.
The trio is reportedly being held in Evin prison, where British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 41, has been detained since 2016 on bogus spying charges.
The blogger, who is on the same ward as Zaghari-Ratcliffe, was told by Iranian authorities that she was being held as part of a plan for a prisoner swap with Australia.
These arrests come as tensions grow between Iran and the United States and its allies, including Australia. The US pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal in 2018, citing Iranian noncompliance and the deal’s failure to address all of Tehran’s malign behaviour. Then the US began a “maximum pressure” approach to alter Iran’s behavior and limit its nuclear ambitions.
However, Iran has proved reluctant to change, instead of launching attacks on oil tankers, drones, pipelines, and civilian centers in response to strict US sanctions.
As a result, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said last week that the country’s defense forces would work with the US and the United Kingdom in the Strait of Hormuz on a maritime security mission.
A DFAT spokesperson called on Australian citizens and dual nationals who are traveling to or through Iran to follow the government’s latest travel advice. This advice is to “reconsider your need to travel,” due to “the risk that foreigners, including Australians, could be arbitrarily detained or arrested”.
The government also warned that travelers should stay away from military or nuclear sites, which may not be clearly marked, and not travel to border areas with Afghanistan and Iraq.