Iran released two travel bloggers from three months detention on Saturday after they were arrested for flying a drone near a military zone without a license.
Tehran dropped its charges against Australian-British blogger Jolie King and her fiancé Mark Firkin, who both returned to Australia. They had been held in the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran since early July.
At the same time Iran’s state TV reported Iranian scientist, Reza Dehbashi, who was detained for 13 months in Australia for purchasing a defense system for his country from the United States, had returned home.
Dehbashi had been a research student at the University of Queensland.
Attorney General Christian Porter confirmed Dehbashi would not be extradited to the United States but refused to comment on speculation of an apparent prisoner swap.
“The Australian government does not comment on the details behind its consideration of particular cases,” he said in a statement.
“And while it is likely that because of Mr Dehbashi Kivi’s 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 said.
King and Firkin thanked the Australian government and released a statement, saying: “We are extremely happy and relieved to be safely back in Australia with those we love. While the past few months have been very difficult, we know it has also been tough for those back home who have been worried for us.”
The couple requested privacy as they try to “get back to [our] normal lives.”
The pair originally left Perth, Western Australia, in June 2017 by off road vehicle bound for the UK, planning to travel for two years driving across 36 countries. They have been documenting their travels on Instagram and Youtube with a stated aim of going to countries less likely to fall on the average traveller’s radar due to unsympathetic media coverage.
“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 wrap (sic) in the media,” they said in a post on crowd-funding platform Patreon.
Deals can be made with Iran for the release of prisoners however this often involves the transfer of large amounts of cash to the Islamic republic.
Just such a prisoner exchange was brokered by former U.S. President Barack Obama in January 2016 that freed Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian and three other Iranian-Americans. It saw the U.S. make a $1.7 billion cash delivery to Iran the same day the hostages were allowed to walk free.
The Obama administration defended the payment to Iran as a “a very good deal for U.S. taxpayers.”