UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — Three Australian nationals have been detained in Iran, the Australian government said on Wednesday, adding it was providing assistance to their families without giving further details.
The brief statement by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade came after the British newspaper Times reported that two women with Australian and British citizenship and a friend of one of them were detained in Iran.
“The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is providing consular assistance to the families of three Australians detained in Iran,” a ministry spokesman said in e-mailed remarks. We will not provide further details for our commitment to privacy.”
This comes amid mounting tension between Western powers and Iran after the United States withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on Tehran aimed at halting Iranian oil exports.
The Times reported that a blog traveling in Asia with her Australian friend and a lecture taught at an Australian university had been detained in two separate incidents.
The newspaper said they were in a Tehran prison where Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe, an employee of the Thomson Reuters charity, an Iranian-British Briton held since 2016, is being held on suspicion of spying.
The newspaper did not name the two citizens under a request from the British Foreign Office and said the Australian government was handling the cases.
“It seems very worrying and the British government will do everything in its power to support any British citizen detained in Iran,” British Business Secretary Andrea Ledsom told Sky News.
British Foreign Secretary Dominique Rapp on Wednesday expressed concern to the Iranian ambassador in London about the number of dual nationals held in Iran and the conditions of their detention.
The Australian Government, in its travel instructions to Iran, calls on citizens to reconsider the need to travel there “because of the risk of foreigners, including Australians, being arbitrarily arrested or detained. Citizens with dual citizenship are also threatened.”
The newspaper pointed out that the blog and her boyfriend were arrested about ten weeks ago.
It was unclear when and why the lecture was arrested. The newspaper, quoting a source, said she was held in solitary confinement and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
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