Tuesday, 17 September, 2019

Iran detains three Australian nationals in Tehran prison

US Marines observe an Iranian fast attack craft from the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock during a Strait of Hormuz transit US Marines observe an Iranian fast attack craft from the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock during a Strait of Hormuz transit
Patty Aguilar | 13 September, 2019, 06:31

"We're concerned that these two British-Australian nationals may have been subjected to serious human rights violations, including denial of access to a lawyer and even torture or other ill-treatment".

Those held include a British-Australian academic who is being kept in solitary confinement and has been sentenced to 10 years in prison, the report said.

The couple were in Iran as part of a trip that started in Australia three years ago and had been documenting their travels on YouTube and Instagram, the Times said.

However, all three prisoners are believed to be incarcerated at Evin jail in Tehran, the same facility where 41-year-old British-Iranian woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been imprisoned since 2016 for espionage.

"The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is providing consular assistance to the families of three Australians detained in Iran", a spokesman said in emailed comments to the Reuters news agency.

The blogger and her boyfriend are being held in the same prison in Tehran where a British-Iranian aid worker, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, has been jailed since 2016 on spying charges.

Meanwhile, Australia's public broadcaster ABC also reported that a third Australian national - the partner of one of the women - had also been detained.

Several British nationals with Iranian backgrounds are similarly held as Iran and Britain have been discussing the possible release of some 400 million pounds held by London since the 1979 Islamic Revolution for a tank purchase that never happened.

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The detention of two dual British-Australian citizens, if confirmed, would deepen tensions between London and Tehran and pose a further challenge to embattled Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Those detained in the past 18 months include U.S. Navy veteran Michael White, arrested in July 2018; Morad Tahbaz, a British-Iranian businessman who was held in January previous year; and Aras Amiri, an Iranian with British residency who worked at the British Council in London and was arrested in late November 2018. "Due to our privacy obligations, we will not comment further", a spokesperson said.

Earlier this week the Australian government updated its travel advice for Iran to "reconsider your need to travel" and "do not travel" to areas near the border with Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Foreign Office has warned dual Iranian citizens not to travel to Iran.

The family of the blogger and her partner say their arrest is a misunderstanding and they were unaware that flying a drone in Iran requires a permit.

The news of the detention comes after Australia announced that it would join a US-led mission to protect shipping through the Strait of Hormuz.

Tensions have been high between Iran and Britain since July after British forces seized an Iranian oil tanker, reportedly claiming that it was on its way to Syria.

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