An Australian man and his British-Australian partner have recalled how their round the world adventure turned into a harrowing nightmare after they arrested at gunpoint and detained in a Iranian jail for almost three months.
Western Australian-based travel bloggers Mark Firkin and Jolie King were falsely accused of espionage after they were arrested last June near Tehran for illegally flying a drone.
They were taken to a holding cell and spent almost three months in the notorious Evin Prison before being released thanks to assistance of Australian authorities.
A year on since their release, the couple have broken the silence about the dramatic moment they were woken at midnight while being blindfolded and guns held at their heads by police.
‘They weren’t having a bar of what we were trying to communicate with them and they just didn’t believe we were who we said we were,’ Mr Firkin told The West Australian.
Mr Firkin and Ms King were charged with espionage, which carries a maximum penalty of death in Iran.
The couple claimed they were denied access to Australian consular officials and told they weren’t entitled to lawyers.
They also recalled being taken to a judge, where their interrogators also acted as translators.
‘At this point the judge had then issued us with another sheet of paper saying that the charges for espionage had been dropped but we were being charged with taking pictures of an atomic site, which again, was a complete fabrication,’ Ms King said.
Her partner Mr Firkin added: ‘It went from 10 years for espionage or death, to three years for taking photos of an atomic site.’
The couple returned to Western Australia following their release from Evin Prison last October.
Foreign minister Marise Payne told reporters the couple were in good health and in good spirits at the time of their release, adding that all charges had been dropped.
Mr Firkin and Ms King are now working to get themselves re-established and pay off their hefty legal bills.
They gave their 30,800 followers an update on their The Way Overland Instagram page on the one year anniversary of their arrest.
It was also the first post uploaded since their arrest.
‘A lot can happen in 12 months,’ the post states.
Tonight, June 30 at midnight will mark 12 months to the minute we were taken at gunpoint from our beds.’
The couple hinted they would soon break their silence about their ordeal in Iran.
‘We might give some more info shortly on what actually happened, in the meantime, we’re Ok and Troopy (their vehicle) has been relocated and is currently waiting patiently in safe hands until we can be reunited and continue on,’ the post continues.
‘Thanks for anyone who has assisted or sent messages or support; we hope everyone is safe and well, where ever you are in the world.’
In mid 2017, Mr Firkin and quit their jobs to ‘travel to countries given a bad rap in the media’.
The round-the-world driving expedition they had been documenting online that started in the Perth suburb of Cottesloe and was due to finish in London.
The couple were en route to Europe when they were arrested in Tehran.
Their families said at the time the couple were unaware of Iran’s strict drone laws.
British-Australian university professor Kylie Moore-Gilbert remains locked up in solitary confinement in one of Iran’s most notorious prisons following her arrest in 2018.
The Cambridge-educated academic spends up to 23 hours a day in isolation inside the Qarchak prison in Tehran’s east, widely considered the most abhorrent jail in the nation.