Iran is believed to be holding two British-Australian women captive in the hope of exchanging one of them for an Iranian imprisoned in the US on charges of evading American sanctions.
Tensions between Britain and Iran escalated dramatically after it emerged the women were being held in the first recent case of Tehran arresting British citizens who do not also hold Iranian nationality.
One woman, a travel blogger, was arrested this summer while visiting Iran with her Australian fiancée. The second woman, a university lecturer, was seized earlier and has reportedly already been sentenced to 10 years in prison.
The Telegraph is not naming them at the request of the Foreign Office.
Sources said Tehran sees the women as bargaining chips to secure the release of Negar Ghodskani, a 40-year-old Iranian woman facing jail in the US after pleading guilty to a conspiracy to export prohibited technology to Iran.
Ghodskani was arrested in Australia in 2017 at the request of US government and gave birth to a baby boy while in custody in Adelaide. She was extradited to the US and now faces five years in federal prison.
Iran’s government has repeatedly called for her release. Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, publicly suggested she could be swapped in exchange for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British-Iranian mother imprisoned in Tehran.
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