Press conference

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Iran, Bulgaria, detention of Australians.

FOREIGN MINISTER: I want to make a brief statement today and then of course take a couple of questions. I'm pleased to be able to advise that the Iranian Government has released Australian couple Jolie King and Mark Firkin from custody and has dropped the charges against them. For Jolie and for Mark the ordeal that they have been through is now over. They are being united with their loved ones which is a source of great relief and joy to everyone. I can tell you that they are in good health and in good spirits.

As many of you will know, Jolie and Mark were arrested and detained in Iran. They were detained for several months. The government has worked very hard through diplomatic channels during that time to secure their release. As well as to ensure they were treated appropriately while they were detained. We have done that discreetly and I would note that each case of an Australian unfortunately detained overseas is different and requires a specific and a particular response.

I would particularly like to thank Australia’s consular officials and diplomatic officials who have helped to bring this case to a successful conclusion. They have worked very hard for Jolie and for Mark. The Australian government fully respects the privacy of Jolie and Mark and their family and I would urge all Australians to do the same in these circumstances.

I would also note that there is a third Australian remaining in detention in Iran. The Australian government is continuing to seek her return to Australia. And discussions with authorities in Iran on that matter are ongoing. So I would not make further comment on that case in particular. I am prepared to answer a couple of questions, thank you.

JOURNALIST: What was involved in some of the negotiations to free the couple?

FOREIGN MINISTER: Well they’re obviously very sensitive negotiations. I’ve indicated before that I’ve met on a number of occasions with my counterpart, foreign minister, Javad Zarif. Officials have been in constant discussions. We’ve been engaging with the Iranian embassy here in Australia, in Canberra, and of course our post in Tehran has been working very hard on this as well. So they have been constant, they have been at multiple levels and it is with some enormous relief that I announce this morning that they have been released and returned.

JOURNALIST: Was it up to- did the Prime Minister, make contact with Iranian leadership?

FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, I won’t go into all of those engagements, but senior levels of government across both countries have been involved in these discussions.

JOURNALIST: What condition are they in?

FOREIGN MINISTER: They are in good spirits and they are in good health.

JOURNALIST: What was the response of the families when they first heard?

FOREIGN MINISTER: They are enormously relieved to know that their children are returning. 

JOURNALIST: And you saying there is still another woman, Australian in Iran, how delicate are those negotiations at this stage?

FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, they are very long-term negotiations and they are ongoing. She has, as you know, been detained for some considerable time and has faced the Iranian legal system and has been convicted and sentenced. So, as I said in my remarks, each of these cases are unique and different. So we are continuing our discussions with the Iranian government. We don’t accept the charges upon which she was convicted and we would seek to have her returned to Australia.

JOURNALIST: Does that add a level of complexity to her situation as opposed to the couple?

FOREIGN MINISTER: Yes, her situation is very complex.

JOURNALIST: There’s also an Australian, Jock Palfreeman in Bulgaria, still has there been any progress on that front?

FOREIGN MINISTER: I wrote to the Foreign Minister of Bulgaria at the beginning of this week, immediately after seeing her in New York last week to seek her assistance to look at his case within the Bulgarian system. He has been granted parole by the Bulgarian legal system. He has been released from prison and removed to immigration detention. We would be very concerned if factors other than the normal legal premises that operate in Bulgaria were at play in his case. And we have most clearly and explicitly sought his release from immigration detention and his return to Australia. 

JOURNALIST: With the couple in Iran, what happens now? How will they get back to Australia, what are the plans there?

FOREIGN MINISTER: They’re being returned to Australia and they will be reunited with their family. I think we can only begin to imagine the relief that will be experienced by all who were involved in that reunion and I hope they can take some time to enjoy that together. 

JOURNALIST: Are there any warnings to Australians travelling to Iran at this point in terms of certain elements to not get in these situations?

FOREIGN MINISTER: Well I can absolutely recommend a review of Smartraveller, which I would do for all Australians traveling overseas. In relation to Iran, it says reconsider your need to travel. For some parts of the country, it says do not travel. It makes very clear what activities are matters of concern to Iranian authorities that might not always be appreciated by Australians given the circumstances in which we live. But it goes to show the importance of appreciating the circumstances, the laws, the conditions of the countries in which Australians travel and the importance of reviewing those whenever you make a decision to travel overseas.

Thank you everyone.

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