Thu, 01 Oct 2020

Iran says it has charged three detained Australians with spying, following the reported arrest of a travel-blogging couple and an academic.

Two of the Australians were alleged to have used a drone to take pictures of military sites, while the third was accused of 'spying for another country,' judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili was quoted by the judiciary-affiliated Mizan news agency as telling reporters.

Esmaili said all three were in prison and awaiting trial, adding that the matter involved two separate cases.

He did not give their names and it wasn't clear when they had been charged.

Media reports have suggested that the three are being held in Tehran's Evin prison.

The comments mark Tehran's first official confirmation that Australians had been detained in Iran after the families of two Australian nationals and a British-Australian said last week they had been arrested.

The trio were identified as travel-blogging couple Jolie King and Mark Firkin and Melbourne University lecturer Kylie Moore-Gilbert.

Kylie Moore-Gilbert

Australia has said it is providing consular assistance to the three detainees. Foreign Minister Marise Payne said there was 'no reason' to believe the arrests were politically motivated.

The detained couple had been documenting their journey on social media for the past two years but went silent about 10 weeks ago.

The family of Moore-Gilbert said over the weekend that she had been held in Iran for a 'number of months' while Australian broadcaster ABC reported that she has been in jail for almost a year.

Moore-Gilbert was working as a lecturer specializing in Middle East politics for Melbourne University's Asia Institute before her arrest.

The arrests come at a time of increased tensions between Iran and Western countries over a number of issues, including Iran's decision to reduce its nuclear commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal.

In recent years, several Americans and dual nationals have been jailed in Iran on espionage charges.

Iranian authorities have not provided any solid evidence to back their claims.

With reporting by AFP, dpa, and Mizan

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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