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Iran confirms detention of three Australian citizens, accuses one of spying

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Iranian authorities have now confirmed the nation is detaining three Australians, with one of them accused of spying for a third country.

The details are contained in a brief report from the semi-official Fars news agency, which contains the first information from within Iran about the detention of three Australians.

It quotes an Iranian judiciary official saying two Australian travel bloggers were arrested after taking pictures in military areas, and says the third Australian — presumably Kylie Moore-Gilbert — was detained for allegedly spying for a third country.

“The news is true and there are two dossiers and bills of indictments have been issued for both cases,” judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said.

The ABC understands Dr Moore-Gilbert was arrested in the second half of last year after travelling to Iran to attend a course in the city of Qom, about two hours’ drive from Tehran.

She had official permission and the correct visas to attend that course.

“The act of espionage was not for the native country of the person but for another country,” Mr Esmaili said.

It had been reported that Dr Moore-Gilbert had been convicted and sentenced to 10 years’ jail, but a spokesman for Iran’s judiciary said “the court will decide whether this person is guilty or not”.

She is a lecturer in Islamic Studies at the University of Melbourne, and one of her specialties is Bahrain, in the Persian Gulf.

Travel bloggers Jolie King and Mark Firkin were arrested just outside Tehran after flying a drone near a military facility. It is believed they have been held for about 10 weeks.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has been contacted for comment.

Last week, Foreign Minister Marise Payne told Parliament the Federal Government had been lobbying for their release and she is believed to have met with Iranian officials at the sidelines of a summit in Bangladesh to discuss the case.

 

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