Iran confirms three Australians detained on spying charges

17 September 2019, 13:42 | Updated: 18 September 2019, 08:41

Iran has acknowledged for the first time that is it detaining three Australian nationals on spying charges, including two who have dual British citizenship

Two of them were seen taking pictures in military areas, while another was spying for another country, according to the Fars news agency, quoting judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili.

Mr Esmaili added: "The court will decide whether this person [detained for spying] is guilty or not."

He did not confirm the identity of the people detained, nor did he say when they were arrested.

One of the detainees is Melbourne University lecturer Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who has reportedly been sentenced to 10 years in jail.

The other two are travel blogger Jolie King and her boyfriend Mark Firkin.

Ms King and Ms Moore-Gilbert have dual British and Australian citizenship.

All three are being held in Evin prison, notorious for housing Iran's political prisoners and its questionable living conditions.

Dr Moore-Gilbert was arrested in October last year and held in solitary confinement, while Ms King and Mr Firkin were arrested in July after they were caught operating a non-licensed drone near Tehran.

Australia's foreign ministry said it was providing consular assistance to the families of the three Australians.

The family of Dr Moore-Gilbert said in a statement that they were in "close contact" with the Australian government, adding: "We believe that the best chance of securing Kylie's safe return is through diplomatic channels."

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The three cases are thought to be separate.

Australian officials announced the detentions last week and said it was pushing Iran to free those detained.

Iran has in recent years held several dual nationals, including the British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a mother of one from London who has been held on spying charges since 2016.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe denies the allegations.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who met the Iranian ambassador on Wednesday, said he had "raised serious concerns about the number of dual national citizens detained by Iran and their conditions of detention", according to the Foreign Office.

Relations between the UK and Iran have been strained in recent months due to a crisis involving the seizure of oil tankers in the Gulf.