‘Serious concerns’ as two British-Australian women detained in Iran

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Two British-Australian women have been arrested and detained in Iran, a Sky source has confirmed.

One of the women is a blogger who had been travelling through Asia with her Australian boyfriend, and the second woman is a university lecturer who had been working at an Australian university.

A spokesperson for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: “The Foreign Secretary met the Iranian Ambassador this morning and raised serious concerns about the number of dual national citizens detained by Iran and their conditions of detention.”

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed it was providing assistance to three people detained in Iran.

The blogger and her boyfriend were reportedly arrested about 10 weeks ago. They had been in the country as part of a long trip which they were documenting on social media.

The Times cited a source as saying that the blogger had been told by Iranian authorities that she was being held as part of a plan to facilitate a prisoner swap with Australia.

The university lecturer has been in jail for almost a year and is in solitary confinement.

More from Iran

According to the report, she has been sentenced to 10 years in jail, although her alleged crime is not known.

The two cases are understood to be unrelated.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe
Image: Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was jailed in Iran three years ago

The Times reported that the women are in Tehran’s Evin jail, where British-Iranian mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been held since 2016 on spying charges.

Her husband Richard Ratcliffe said he told Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab when the pair met a couple of weeks ago that there had been an escalation in foreign nationals being detained in Iran to be used as diplomatic bargaining chips.

“More people are being taken and the government needs to do a better job at protecting ordinary people from being held and used as chess pieces in this way,” he told Sky News.

“The Foreign Office is very cautious of sharing its strategy. Obviously, we feel that the government should be making it much more costly for Iran to be doing this.”

And to the families of the latest detainees, he said: “My heart goes out to you. It is a terrible situation to be involved in.”

The two women are thought to be the first British passport holders who do not also have Iranian nationality to have been jailed in Iran recently.

The arrests come amid a souring in relations between Britain and Iran, after issues such as the seizure by the Royal Marines in July of an Iranian oil tanker near Gibraltar.

Two weeks later, the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero was seized by Iran for alleged marine violations in the Strait of Hormuz. Seven of the Swedish-owned vessel’s 23-strong crew members have since been released.

The FCO has been warning dual Iranian citizens not to travel to Iran, but news of the arrests is likely to raise questions about the level of danger to travellers of other nationalities too.

Its travel advice for Iran currently says: “There is a risk that British nationals, and a higher risk that British-Iranian dual nationals, could be arbitrarily detained in Iran.

“All British nationals should consider carefully the risks of travelling to Iran.”

A spokesperson for Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs said: “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.”

Two British-Australian women detained in Iran

Two British-Australian women have been arrested and detained in Iran, a Sky source has confirmed. One of the women is a blogger who had been travelling through Asia with her Australian boyfriend and the second woman is a university lecturer who had been working at an Australian university.

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