SYDNEY - Australia insists its support for the U.S.-led mission to protect tankers in the Persian Gulf is not to blame for the detention of two Australian travel bloggers being held in Iran. They have been identified as Jolie King and Mark Firkin, a couple from Perth.
They reportedly were detained 10 weeks ago near Tehran. King also holds a British passport.
News of the couple’s arrest, and that of another British-Australian woman, emerged Wednesday. The cases are not thought to be related. The detentions come amid growing tensions between the West and Iran.
King and Firkin have been traveling through Asia and the Middle East. They were documenting their adventures to thousands of followers on Instagram and YouTube, including a recent trip through Pakistan.
“You might have heard of it before but the Karakoram (highway) was built on the same path as the old Silk Route, so that is pretty cool,” King said.
It is reported the couple was arrested in Iran for flying a drone without permission. Videos filmed in other countries do contain drone footage.
Their last social media post was June 30:
Firkin: “We are now in Iran and we are camped on a nice hill here next to the capital, Tehran.”
King: “We just arrived. (It’s) actually really beautiful.”
Firkin: “Just in time for sunset.”
A second dual British-Australian national reported to have been jailed for 10 years on unknown charges is understood to be an academic from Melbourne. There is speculation the woman, who has not been publicly identified, could have been convicted by Iran of spying.
In August, Canberra said it would send a warship and surveillance aircraft to the Persian Gulf to join an international effort to combat Iran’s actions in the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world’s most important shipping lanes.
The Australian foreign minister, Marise Payne, does not believe the detentions are linked to that decision or to other political reasons.
“We have no reason to think that these arrests are connected to international concern over Iran’s nuclear program, United Nations sanctions or sanctions enforcement or maritime security and the safety of civilian shipping,” Payne said.
Australia is advising its citizens, and those with dual nationality, to reconsider their need to travel to Iran because of the risk that foreigners could be randomly detained.