Aussie Travel Blogger Couple Detained In Notorious Iran Prison
Two Australian travel influencers have been imprisoned in Iran, part-way through a long overland trip between Australia and Europe.
Mark Firkin and Jolie King have been identified as the couple captured in Iran 10 weeks ago, reportedly for flying a drone without permission. Separately, another Australian woman is also reportedly being held in the same jail, Evin prison, on unknown charges.
Firkin, an Australian, and King, a British-Australian, left Perth in 2017 as part of a long and ambitious trip to reach the United Kingdom 'overland', driving their car -- a Toyota Troopcarrier converted into a small mobile home -- to the other side of the world.
They had been documenting their travels on social media and on their website, The Way Overland.
The last photo on The Way Overland's Instagram page, with nearly 19,000 followers, was posted from the Naryn region in the central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan on June 26. This would have been shortly before they were reportedly detained near Tehran around 10 weeks ago.
The post spoke of their experiences of warm hospitality in Pakistan.
Separately, another woman -- said to be an academic at an Australian university -- was detained last year. Local media reports she was charged and convicted of unknown offences, and sentenced to 10 years jail.
"Hopefully we can stretch this trip out as long as possible, as it's only so often between life's commitments that we get the chance to spend this much time exploring," the couple wrote on their website.
It is understood the Australian government has been quietly negotiating with Iran for the release of the detainees. On Thursday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison declined to discuss the case in detail, calling the situation "sensitive" and saying "they are never issues that are addressed well by offering public commentary on them".
"We will continue to pursue these matters in the interests of the Australians at the centre of these cases and we will do that carefully and in close consultation through our officials who have been part of this process now for some time," the PM said.
They are reportedly being held in the Evin prison -- which has been described as "one of the world's most brutal and infamous prisons" and "hell on Earth", housing killers and dangerous criminals, as well as political prisoners.
"Prisoners sleep everywhere... even close to the washrooms, packed like sardine conserve. I wonder if we are in a prison or a torture chamber," a prisoner told The Guardian in 2015.
The families of Firkin and King have released a statement on Thursday, saying they "hope to see Mark and Jolie safely home as soon as possible".
The couple have a strong social media following, and their fans had noted their absence from the platform in recent weeks.
"Anyone else worried about what happened," one person asked five weeks ago.
"GUYS WHERE ARE YOU ITS BEEN A MONTH - R U OKAY???" said another, four weeks ago.
Following news of their imprisonment becoming public on Thursday, followers quickly left messages of support in the comments on their page.
"They need all the luck they can get. Keep your fingers crossed for them," one person said.
"Poor buggers. Wishing them all the best, I feel sick," added another.
More to come.