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Australia Concerned Over Three Detained Citizens Accused Of Spying In Iran


Travel bloggers Mark Firkin (left) and Jolie King were reportedly arrested in July.

Australian Trade Minister Simon Birmingham has expressed concern for three Australians Iran has detained and accused of espionage, but distanced their plight from the previous weekend's attack on Saudi oil facilities, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported on September 18.

He was responding to Tehran's acknowledgment for the first time on September 17 that it is holding two British-Australian citizens and an Australian national for allegedly spying.

Melbourne University Middle East expert Kylie Moore-Gilbert was arrested in October for allegedly spying for a country other than Australia, according to ABC.

Kylie Moore-Gilbert
Kylie Moore-Gilbert

An Australian couple were alleged to have used a drone to take pictures of military sites, judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili was quoted by the judiciary-affiliated Mizan news agency as telling reporters.

The couple, Mark Firkin and Jolie King, were arrested in July and were avid travel bloggers.

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.

Birmingham told ABC his government "continues to seek information and clarity" about the arrests.

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

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 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, AP, ABC, and Mizan
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