Three Australian citizens arrested and detained in Iran

Elias Hubbard
September 11, 2019

"The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is providing consular assistance to the families of three Australians detained in Iran. Due to our privacy obligations, we will not comment further", the department said in a statement provided to the PA news agency.

"There is a risk that foreigners, including Australians, could be arbitrarily detained, or arrested", the advice notice says.

One of the women, a blogger who was travelling through Asia, and her Australian boyfriend were arrested about 10 weeks ago on charges which remain unclear, The Times of London reported on Wednesday. She is reportedly in solitary confinement, and the crime or crimes she was convicted of have not been made public.

The trio is being held in Tehran's Evin prison, where British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 41, has been detained since 2016 on spying charges, according to media reports.

The Australian government, the newspaper and the ABC have not released names.

On Wednesday, a DFAT spokesperson urged Australian citizens and holders of dual nationality with Australia who are traveling to or through Iran to follow the government's latest travel advice.

The blogger was being held in the same ward for female political prisoners as Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the newspaper reported.

The Times said the blogger was arrested about 10 weeks ago with her boyfriend.

Two Australian women and one man have been detained in Iran.

There was no immediate comment Wednesday from Iranian officials, nor state media.

Meanwhile, a rising number of dual nationals have been detained, in what many see as a ruthless diplomatic strategy. The Iranian tanker was released in August and was last spotted along Syria's coast, while Tehran said on Sunday it could release the British-flagged vessel "within days." .

It's unclear what Australia would offer in return, though the 2016 prisoner swap saw Iranians held in the USA similarly released. Since the decision by US President Donald Trump in 2018 to abandon the Iran nuclear deal, Washington has attempted to use what it calls "maximum pressure" to change Iran's behavior and limit its nuclear ambitions. Recently, Iran has broken the deal's limits on enrichment, its uranium stockpile and the use of advanced centrifuges, trying to pressure Europe to offer it a way to sell its crude oil on the worldwide market despite US sanctions. 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 arrests come after Australia announced last month it would join the United States and Britain in deploying warships to the Strait of Hormuz.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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