Australian bloggers held in Iran prison for ‘flying drone without license’

Australian bloggers held in Iran prison for ‘flying drone without license’

Two travel bloggers who used their fame to try and “break the stigma” around visiting certain countries were detained in Iran for flying a drone, according to reports. 

Authorities have named the pair as Jolie King, a British-Australian woman and Mark Firkin, an Australian citizen.

The couple were detained after flying a drone without a licence in Tehran, according to reports in Iranian media.

“The family says this was a misunderstanding and Jolie King [and] her fiance Mark Firkin were unaware of the Iranian law which bans drone flights without a licence,” said Pouria Zeraati, editor in chief of Manoto TV, an Iranian channel.

Mr Zeraati said the couple had yet to stand trial.

The pair were arrested around 10 weeks ago, while camping near a military area near Jajrood in Tehran province.

They had travelled through Australia, south east Asia and south Asia before reaching the Middle East.

Ms King and Mr Firkin documented their journey online, on Instagram, YouTube and their blog, The Way Overland.

“Our biggest motivation behind making 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,” the couple’s Patreon fundraising page reads.

They are being held in Evin prison, which is known for holding political inmates and for its poor conditions.

Ms King spent a lengthy amount of time in the solitary confinement wing but is now in the same part of the prison as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, according to her husband Richard Ratcliffe. Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian citizen, has been detained in Iran since 2016.

Ms King appeared “scared and disoriented” following her solitary detention, Richard Ratcliffe said.

“I know that the girl who is in now with Nazanin came through scared and disoriented and obviously had been quite intimidated by being interrogated for all that time in solitary,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporatio

Mr Ratcliffe said his wife had spent more than eight months in solitary confinement and described Evin’s cells as being “about the size of a double bed” and containing no windows or natural light.

It is unclear if Mr Firkin is being held in solitary confinement.

The travel bloggers live in Perth, Australia but set off on an overland trip through a series of countries in 2017.

They drove from Perth to Darwin and then travelled to Indonesia before driving west through nations including India, Pakistan and China before arriving in Iran.

Ms King and Mr Firkin planned to end their trip in the UK.

On Thursday Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) released a statement from the couple’s relatives.

“Our families hope to see Mark and Jolie safely home as soon as possible. We have no further comment to make at this stage and ask that the media respects our privacy at this difficult time,” the families said.

It has also been reported this week that a second British-Australian woman has been incarcerated in Evin for almost a year.

The academic, who has not been named, is also being held in solitary confinement and is serving a 10-year sentence for an unknown conviction.

DFAT has been negotiating with Iranian authorities for the release of all three Australian passport-holding detainees for several weeks.

A spokesperson for the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office said DFAT was taking the lead on all three cases.

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Additional reporting by agencies


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