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Australian Universities Suspend Travel To Iran For Fear Of Arrests

Two Australians Mark Firkin and Jolie King, who were freed by Iran on October 5 after ten weeks of detention. File photo

Acting on advice from the government, Australian universities have warned academics not to travel to Iran, after three Australians were detained by the Islamic Republic in recent months.

Iran currently holds several foreigners and dual nationals on ambiguous charges, leading to Western governments and international human rights organizations to conclude that Tehran is in effect arresting innocent people to use them as bargaining chips.

Earlier in October the Australian government released an Iranian suspected of breaking sanctions in technology transfers to Iran in order to get two Australian travelers freed from Iran. Blogger Jolie King and her boyfriend Mark Firkin were released after ten weeks of detention.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the Australian government had warned universities as early as last December that reimposition of U.S. sanctions had changed the risk factor for its citizens for travel to Iran. According to the paper eight major universities have suspended academic travel to Iran.

A third Australian citizen, Melbourne University academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert -- who has also been arrested by Iranian authorities -- remains in detention.

When Iran arrests citizens from Western countries or allied nations it charges them with spying, which carries heavy sentences without due process of law and internationally accepted norms of granting adequate self-defense to the accused.