Australian tourists freed after apparent prison swap with Iran



SYDNEY, Frank Walker (dpa)– Australian travel bloggers Jolie King and Mark Firkin were back home in Perth on Sunday after spending months in an Iranian jail, as it emerged that their release was part of an apparent prisoner swap.
Australian authorities confirmed that on the same day Iran released the couple from detention in Tehran, they released an Iranian academic who had been detained in Queensland for the past 13 months.




Reza Dehbashi Kivi, 38, a cancer researcher at Queensland University, was detained in September 2018 after the United States issued an extradition request due to allegations that he had conspired to export electronic military devices to Iran.
Iranian state news agency IRIB reported that Dehbashi Kivi returned to Tehran on Saturday. He was accompanied by the Iranian ambassador to Australia and his arrival was filmed on Iranian TV, Australia's national broadcaster ABC reported.
The Australian government did not confirm it was a prisoner swap.
Australian Attorney General Christian Porter said extradition requests are decided on a case-by-case basis.
"I considered that, in all the circumstances of this particular case, Mr Dehbashi Kivi should not ultimately be extradited to the United States," Porter said in a statement to Australian Associated Press.
"While it is likely that because of [his] nationality some will speculate regarding this matter, consistent with prior practice I do not intend to comment further on the particular details of this case, particularly when any such response from me may diminish our government's capacity to deal with future matters of this type in Australia's best interests," he added.
King, who is a British-Australian dual national, and Firkin set out from Perth in 2017 to drive from Australia to Britain, documenting their adventures on social media and frequently using a drone to film their travels.
They were arrested in July after taking photos of military facilities with a drone without a permit in Tehran province, Iranian officials said. They had since been held in the notorious Evin prison north of Tehran.
The Australian government is trying to secure the release of another Australian held in Iran, Melbourne University lecturer Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who has been in jail for more than a year.  
Foreign Minister Marise Payne said her case was "very complex" as she has been convicted by an Iranian court and sentenced to 10 years in jail.
Payne told reporters on Saturday the Canberra government does not accept the charges upon which she was convicted, and is seeking to have her returned to Australia.
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Sunday, October 6th 2019
Frank Walker (dpa)
           


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