MELBOURNE, Australia – An Australian couple detained in Iran for several months have been released and the two are reuniting with their families after the charges against them have been dropped, Australian authorities confirmed on Saturday.
"I am pleased to advise that the Iranian government has released Australian couple Jolie King and Mark Firkin from custody and dropped charges against them," Foreign Minister Marise Payne told reporters in Sydney, Australia, on Saturday afternoon. .
Since 2017, the couple have been blogging about their travels through Asia to Europe when their social media accounts were quiet in June.
Last month, the Australian government confirmed that the couple were among three of its Iranian detainees, at a time when tensions between Iran and the West remained high over a 2015 nuclear deal at risk.
"For Jolie and Mark, the ordeal they have now gone through is over," Payne said. “They are reuniting with their loved ones, which is a source of great relief and joy for all. I can tell you that they are in good health and in a good mood.
She added that she met on several occasions with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, and that discussions on the release of the third detainee, who was convicted and sentenced, continue.
"Unfortunately, each case of an Australian detained abroad is different and requires a specific and specific response," said Payne.
A spokesman for Payne's office confirmed that Australian media reports naming the third detainee as Kylie Moore-Gilbert, a Middle Eastern studies scholar at the University of Melbourne, was accurate. Moore-Gilbert has been sentenced to 10 years in Iran, although it is unclear what she is accused of, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported in September.
Australian officials have not commented on why King and Firkin were detained, but previous Iranian media reports said the two were arrested after flying a drone near Tehran without permission.
In a statement issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Commerce on behalf of the couple, King and Firkin said they were "extremely happy and relieved" that they were safely back in Australia.
Following the couple's release, the Australian authorities made public the decision not to extradite an Iranian student, Reza Dehbashi Kivi, to the United States after charges last month that he had exported military radar equipment to help the Iranian government.
"My decision was made in accordance with the requirements of Australia's domestic legal processes and is completely consistent with the powers given to the Commonwealth Attorney General under our law," Christian Porter, Australia's Attorney General, said in a statement.
On the couple's Instagram account, where they have nearly 30,000 followers, messages began to appear expressing relief on their safe return.
"We are very happy to hear that you are free and safe back in Australia," one follower wrote, adding that the couple could resume their travels "when the time is right."