British travel blogger and her boyfriend are FREED from Iranian jail

British travel blogger and her boyfriend are FREED from Iranian jail: Couple who were arrested for spying when they flew a drone near military sites are ‘relieved’ to be back with their families after ‘prisoner swap deal’

  • Jolie King and her Australian boyfriend Mark Firkin were arrested in Iran in July 
  • Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne confirmed they had now been freed
  • They were accused of flying drone without seeking permission from authorities 
  • Ms King spotted inside Evin jail by British-Iranian Nazanian Zaghari-Ratcliffe
  • Speaking after release, the couple said they were ‘extremely happy and relieved’
  • Comes as an Iranian student detained in Australia for 13 months was released 

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A British travel blogger and her boyfriend have said they are ‘relieved’ to be back with their families after they were freed from an Iranian prison in a suspected prisoner swap deal.  

Jolie King, who was arrested alongside Australian boyfriend Mark Firkin in early July after allegedly flying a drone near Tehran, was released from Evin jail in Theran after all charges were dropped against the pair for flying a drone.

It comes as an Iranian student detained in Australia for 13 months on accusations of circumventing US sanctions on military equipment has returned to Tehran after being released, state television’s website reported today.

Reza Dehbashi, a PhD student at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, had been arrested for ‘attempting to purchase and transfer advanced American military radar equipment via Dubai to Iran’, the website said. 

Another British-Australian, Kylie Moore-Gilbert, is still in the notorious Tehran jail where she has been for almost a year, having reportedly been handed a 10-year sentence for spying. 

Ms King and Mr Firkin, who lived in the wealthy Perth beachside suburb of Cottesloe, had travelled to Iran as part of an around-the-world trip by overland truck

British travel blogger and her boyfriend are FREED from Iranian jail

 Perth couple Jolie King and Mark Firkin (pictured) were arrested in Iran in July as they drove to London and were detained in Tehran’s Evin jail

British travel blogger and her boyfriend are FREED from Iranian jail

Richard Ratcliffe, husband of fellow inmate Nazanian Zaghari-Ratcliffe, says his wife saw Jolie looking ‘scared, disoriented and quite intimidated’ after questioning in the jail

British travel blogger and her boyfriend are FREED from Iranian jail

Miss King travelled to Iran as part of a round-the-world trip with her Australian partner Mark Firkin (pictured together in Malaysia in August 2018) which they had been documenting online

King – who was arrested alongside her boyfriend on suspicion of spying – was spotted inside Evin jail by Nazanian Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian who has been jailed there since 2016. 

Ms King, who is based in Perth, Australia, had been documenting her journey from Australia to Britain with Mr Firkin on social media for the past two years but went silent after posting updates from Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan about three months ago.

They were alleged to have used a drone to take pictures of ‘military sites and forbidden areas’, an Iranian judiciary spokesman said last month.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said today that the pair had been reunited with their family in Australia following ‘very sensitive negotiations’ with Tehran – after which all charges were dropped against them for flying a drone.

‘We are extremely happy and relieved to be safely back in Australia with those we love,’ the couple said in a statement issued by the foreign ministry on Saturday.

‘While the past few months have been very difficult, we know it has also been tough for those back home who have been worried for us,’ they added.   

Miss King’s father Mike, who was born in Maldon, Essex, had earlier told friends he just wanted to be ‘reunited with his daughter’.

The families issued a joint statement calling for the pair to be released safely ‘as soon as possible’.

Payne has now confirmed they have been released from detention with all charges against them dropped, a month after their arrests had been publicly confirmed. 

‘I’m pleased to be able to advise that the Iranian government has released Australian couple Jolie King and Mark Firkin from custody and has dropped the charges against them,’ Senator Payne told reporters.

‘For Jolie and for Mark, the ordeal that they have been through is now over. 

‘They are being united with their loved ones which is a source of great relief and joy to everyone. 

‘I can tell you that they are in good health and in good spirits.’ 

British travel blogger and her boyfriend are FREED from Iranian jail

The couple have now been freed from an Iranian jail three months after they were arrested for flying a drone

British travel blogger and her boyfriend are FREED from Iranian jail British travel blogger and her boyfriend are FREED from Iranian jail

Miss King used to work as a building designer while Mr Firkin was a construction manager, but gave up the ‘9-5 grind’ for a life of travel (pictured in Sumbawa, left, and Goa Rangko Flores, right, both in Indonesia)

British travel blogger and her boyfriend are FREED from Iranian jail

They had quit their jobs and wanted to ‘travel to countries given a bad rap in the media’

British travel blogger and her boyfriend are FREED from Iranian jail British travel blogger and her boyfriend are FREED from Iranian jail

The couple have posted amazing pictures from their account in places such as Cambodia (left) and Pang Oung Lake (right)

British travel blogger and her boyfriend are FREED from Iranian jail

A blog post penned by the pair when they started their adventure in 2016 says they had been dating for around six years (pictured in Bali in April 2018)

The Liberal cabinet minister said Australia had, through diplomatic channels, urged the Iranian authorities to release them and ‘treat them appropriately while they were detained’.

‘We have done that discreetly and I would note that each case of an Australian unfortunately detained overseas is different and requires a specific and a particular response,’ Senator Payne said.

‘I would particularly like to thank Australia’s consular officials and diplomatic officials who have helped to bring this case to a successful conclusion.

The other Australian detained in Iran

British travel blogger and her boyfriend are FREED from Iranian jail

Kylie Moore-Gilbert is serving a ten year jail sentence for alleged espionage in Iran

Jolie King and Mark Firkin weren’t the only Australians jailed at Iran’s Evin prison.

British-Australian Kylie Moore-Gilbert is still in that notorious Tehran’s jail where she has been for almost a year, having reportedly been handed a 10-year sentence for spying.

Dr Moore-Gilbert is a Cambridge-educated academic who was most recently a lecturer in Islamic Studies at Melbourne University.

‘They have worked very hard for Jolie and for Mark.’ 

Ms King and Mr Firkin, who lived in the wealthy Perth beachside suburb of Cottesloe, had travelled to Iran as part of an around-the-world trip by overland truck.

In 2017, they quit their jobs to ‘travel to countries given a bad rap in the media’.

The couple were jailed in July after allegedly putting a drone up in countryside near Tehran, the capital of Iran, an Islamic theocracy.

Iranian journalist Mr Zeraati said they had reportedly asked a friend where they could get their truck repaired a few days before their arrest.

‘Last time they were in touch they asked for a car repair – a garage – in the capital city because they needed to repair their car,’ Mr Zeraati said.

‘That was the last time they contacted the friend’.

They had reportedly planned to travel onward to holy cities of Shiraz and Ifsahn, but they were confronted by authorities while flying their drone.

They had been awaiting trial in Evin prison since.

King was spotted inside was spotted inside Evin jail by Nazanian Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian who has been jailed there since 2016. 

Richard Ratcliffe, Nazanian’s husband, told the ABC: ‘I know that the girl is now in with Nazanin, [she] came through scared and disoriented and obviously had been quite intimidated by being interrogated for all that time in solitary [confinement].’

It was the first update on Miss King’s condition that the outside world had been given since her social media feeds – which had been posting weekly updates of her round-the-world adventure with Mr Firkin – fell silent in June. 

British travel blogger and her boyfriend are FREED from Iranian jail

The couple were jailed in July after allegedly putting a drone up in countryside near Tehran, the capital of Iran, an Islamic theocracy

British travel blogger and her boyfriend are FREED from Iranian jail

Jolie King, a British-Iranian blogger arrested in Iran, was held in the notorious Evin jail for the duration of her arrest in Iran

British travel blogger and her boyfriend are FREED from Iranian jail British travel blogger and her boyfriend are FREED from Iranian jail

Ms King has posted many photos of their travels such as Suwehan Beach (left) and Kyrgyzstan (right)

British travel blogger and her boyfriend are FREED from Iranian jail

Jolie King and Australian construction manager Mark Firkin have been revealed as the couple who have been detained in Iran

British travel blogger and her boyfriend are FREED from Iranian jail

The couple uploaded near-daily updates on their adventures to social media until late-June when all of their feeds went silent.

They are thought to have been arrested in early July

British travel blogger and her boyfriend are FREED from Iranian jail

The couple detailed their plans to drive from Western Australia to London on a round-the-world trip.

Their last posts, uploaded in late June, show them in far north Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan, around the mid-point of their adventure

British travel blogger and her boyfriend are FREED from Iranian jail

Foreign Minister Marise Payne has confirmed they had been released from detention with all charges against them dropped, a month after their arrests had been publicly confirmed

At their time of arrest the couple had been travelling overland from one side of the world to the other and documenting their adventure. 

The couple had previously said that they wanted to share their journey online to show that countries with a bad reputation are still okay to travel to.

‘Our biggest motivation behind the vlogs is to hopefully inspire anyone wanting to travel, and also try to break the stigma around travelling to countries which get a bad rap in the media’, they said in a post.

The couple had been living together in Cottesloe Beach, Perth, having moved in recent years from New South Wales. 

Their adventure first began in the summer of 2017 after they saved up all their money to travel overland in an SUV from Australia to the United Kingdom. 

Inside the infamous Evin jail 

Evin prison was built by the former Shah of Iran in 1972 and has a reputation as being used for political repression.

It was later expanded after some political opponents overthrew him and took power in 1979.

British travel blogger and her boyfriend are FREED from Iranian jail

The couple were detained in Iran in July amid reports that they were flying a drone near Tehran without a permit.

The woman is thought to be locked in Evin jail (pictured) 

In the 1980s dissidents and members of the People’s Mujahidin of Iran were hanged there and even today the prison still operates a death row system.

Most prisoners in the jail are high-profile long-term political opponents, and in some cases pawns to be used in bargains with other countries.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe is still being detained in the prison after she was accused of spying while visiting her parents with her daughter.

Others who have also been jailed for spying include British Iranian businessman Anousheh Ashouri and Amas Amiri, as well as Morad Tabhaz.

Miss King’s father Mike is thought to have been born in Essex before moving to Australia aged three, which is where her British citizenship comes from. 

They island-hopped across south east Asia and were toward the middle of their trip, having crossed through scenic Pakistan, India and Kyrgyzstan.  

The couple arrived in Iran on June 30 and immediately took to social media to update their followers. 

In a video message they said: ‘We’re now in Iran and we’re camped on a nice hill here next to the capital Tehran. We just arrived. It’s actually really beautiful.’

The video is no longer on the couple’s YouTube channel and their fans had begun to worry about their long silence.  

The arrests came amid heightened tensions between Iran, and Britain and Australia. 

Melbourne University Academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who specialises in Middle East politics with a focus on Gulf states, had been detained for ‘some months’ before King and Firkin were arrested.

Her case also came to light last month.

But negotiations over the fate of the university lecturer, accused of ‘spying for another country’, are ongoing, Payne said.

‘She has been detained for some considerable time and has faced the Iranian legal system and has been convicted and sentenced,’ the foreign minister said.

‘We don’t accept the charges on which she was convicted and we would seek to have her returned to Australia,’ Payne added, declining to comment further.

News of the arrests last month came after Canberra announced it would contribute a frigate and surveillance aircraft to a US-led mission to protect shipping through the Strait of Hormuz, with tensions high in the Gulf region.

Payne has maintained the cases of those detained were not related to diplomatic tensions. 

News of the release of King and Firkin comes just weeks after an Iranian woman arrested in Australia and sentenced in the United States was returned home.

Negar Ghodskani was sentenced last month in Minneapolis to 27 months in prison for violating sanctions against Tehran but was released following time served in custody in Australia and the United States.

After her extradition to the US, she confessed to participation in a conspiracy to illegally export technology to Iran in breach of sanctions, according to the US Justice Department.

She was pregnant when she was arrested in 2017 in Australia where she was a legal resident.

She gave birth while in Australian custody and her son was sent to Iran to live with his father.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in April floated a potential prisoner swap with a British-Iranian mother being held in Tehran.

He suggested exchanging Ghodskani for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, in jail in Tehran for alleged sedition.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was also separated from her child while in custody.   

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