Australian and British dual nationals detained in Iran

Police officers patrol Iran's parliament building in Tehran, Iran. (AP file photo)
Updated 13 September 2019
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Australian and British dual nationals detained in Iran

CANBERRA: Two women who are dual British-Australian citizens and an Australian man have been detained in Iran, one of them sentenced to 10 years in prison, Australia's government and media said Wednesday.
Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was providing consular assistance to the families of all three.
The department also urged Australians to follow its travel advice, which includes a warning that foreigners risk arbitrary detention in Iran.
A British-Australian blogger and her Australian boyfriend were detained 10 weeks ago while traveling through Asia, The Times newspaper in London reported.
A British-Australian academic who studied at Cambridge University and was lecturing at an Australian university was detained separately and sentenced to 10 years in prison, the newspaper reported. The newspaper said she was being held in solitary confinement but it did not know what she had been convicted of doing.
The lecturer has been behind bars for almost a year, Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported.
The Australian government have not released names.
The three are held in Tehran's Evin prison, where British Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 41, has been detained since 2016 on spying charges, the newspaper reported.
The women are thought to be the first British passport holders who do not also have Iranian nationality to have been imprisoned by Tehran in recent years, the newspaper said.
The blogger was being held in the same ward for female political prisoners as Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the newspaper reported.
Iranian authorities told the blogger she was being held as part of a plan to facilitate a prisoner swap with Australia.
The couple were in Iran as part of a trip that started in Australia three years ago, the paper reported.
ABC reported the two cases were not connected.
There was no immediate comment Wednesday from Iranian officials, nor state media. Cases involving dual nationals typically end up in closed-door hearings of Iran's Revolutionary Court, where former detainees say they had no opportunity to defend themselves against spying charges or offer evidence.
Analysts and family members of dual nationals and others detained in Iran long have said hard-liners in the Islamic Republic's security agencies use the prisoners as bargaining chips in negotiations with the West. A UN panel in 2018 described "an emerging pattern involving the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of dual nationals" in Iran, which Tehran denied.
A prisoner exchange in January 2016 that freed Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian and three other Iranian-Americans also saw the U.S. make a $400 million cash delivery to Iran the same day, which involved money from a weapons sale in the era of the late Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
Several British nationals with Iranian backgrounds are similarly held as Iran and Britain have been discussing the possible release of some £400 million held by London since the 1979 Islamic Revolution for a tank purchase that never happened.
It's unclear what Australia would offer in return, though the 2016 prisoner swap saw Iranians held in the U.S. similarly released. Several Americans remain held in Iran now as well.
Detentions of those with Western ties have spiked in the past around sensitive times in Iran. Tensions between Iran and the U.S. remain high over Tehran's unraveling 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from over a year ago. Recently, Iran has broken the deal's limits on enrichment, its uranium stockpile and the use of advanced centrifuges, trying to pressure Europe to offer it a way to sell its crude oil on the international market despite U.S. sanctions.
Australia has advised its citizens to "reconsider your need to travel" to Iran, the highest warning on a four-tier scale after "do not travel" to a country.
Britain and Australia last month signed onto a U.S.-led maritime security mission to protect international shipping in the Strait of Hormuz, where Iran's recent seizures of vessels has raised tensions with the West.


Egypt orders trial for Italian ex-honorary consul charged with smuggling artefacts

Updated 17 September 2019
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Egypt orders trial for Italian ex-honorary consul charged with smuggling artefacts

  • Skakal, Italy’s former honorary consul in Luxor, attempted to smuggle 21,855 artefacts from various historical periods
  • Egyptian authorities also found many artefacts at the Italian’s former home in Cairo and inside a safe he rented

CAIRO: Egypt has ordered Italy’s former honorary consul to stand trial in absentia over charges of attempting to smuggle thousands of artefacts out of the country, the public prosecutor’s office said on Tuesday.
Ladislav Otakar Skakal, Italy’s former honorary consul in Luxor, attempted last year to smuggle 21,855 artefacts from various historical periods in a diplomatic container from Alexandria to the Italian port of Salerno, the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
It said Egyptian authorities also found many artefacts at the Italian’s former home in Cairo and inside a safe he rented at a private bank.
Artefacts he allegedly attempted to smuggle went on display at the Egyptian museum in Cairo last year.
It was not immediately possible to contact Skakal. A call to a phone number in Rome listed under his name in an online directory went unanswered.
The public prosecutor also ordered some Egyptians accused of helping Skakal to stand trial. The statement did not name the suspects but said they had been detained.
Egypt has also asked Interpol to issue a red notice against Skakal, the statement added. A red notice requests law enforcement agencies to provisionally arrest a suspect pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action.
Antiquities theft flourished in Egypt in the years after the country’s 2011 uprising, with relics stolen from museums, mosques, storage facilities and illegal excavations.