Iran releases 2 Australian bloggers from Evin prison

Two Australian travel bloggers were released from Iran’s Evin prison, above, after serving three months of a six-month sentence, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said on Saturday.

All charges against Jolie King and Mark Firkin were dropped and they have been reunited with their families back home.

King and Firkin, who have been documenting their travels from Australia to the UK on Instagram and YouTube since 2017, were arrested in July this year after their camera-mounted drone took photos of a military facility near Jajrood in Tehran province without permission.

In a joint statement, King and Firkin said they are extremely happy and relieved to be safely back home and thanked the Australian government in securing their release, and family and friends for their love and support.

The past three months had been difficult for them as well as for those whom they love, the bloggers said.

Case of Moore-Gilbert

The couple requested media to avoid intense coverage of their release as it may hamper the government’s efforts to bring back a third Australian, Kylie Moore-Gilbert, serving a 10-year sentence in Evin prison after being charged with spying in October last year.

Iran has granted Australia only limited consular access to Moore-Gilbert while her family’s request for a meeting with her has been rejected.

Payne said the case of Moore-Gilbert was complex since the charges were not specific.

The arrests of the blogging couple and the academic came soon after Australia agreed to help a US-led mission to protect ships passing through the Strait of Hormuz where Iran was asserting its control.

Payne denied any link between the arrests and Australia’s small step to wade into the troubled waters of Gulf.

Just weeks before the release of the two bloggers, a US court ordered the deportation of an Iranian woman who was arrested in Australia in 2017 and extradited to Minneapolis in the US.

Negar Ghodskani totally spent 27 months in custody in Australia and the US for violating US sanctions against Iran by purchasing US electronics components and products for her company, Fana Moj.

While the US prosecutors asked for three to five years jail term for the Iranian, the judge ruled that the time she spent in custody was enough.

Until the US district court ruled Ghodskani’s deportation late last month, speculation was rife in media that Iran was willing to swap her for the two Australian bloggers.