Iran confirms holding 3 Australians on spying charges

Iran has confirmed that three Australian citizens are being held in the Islamic Republic on suspicion of spying amid the ratcheting up of tensions between Tehran and the West.

The three have been charged in two separate cases, judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili told the semi-official Tansim news agency on Tuesday. The names of those held and the details on their charges were not given in the report.

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Esmaili said two of the Australians were being held over the use of a drone to take pictures and video inside military areas and other unauthorized areas.

Travel blogging couple Jolie King and Mark Firkin were detained in Iran for presumably flying a drone and taking pictures and video near a military facility.

Travel blogging couple Jolie King and Mark Firkin were detained in Iran for presumably flying a drone and taking pictures and video near a military facility. (Instagram)

The two are likely travel bloggers Mark Firkin and Jolie King. They are believed to have been held for about 10 weeks after being arrested outside Tehran for presumably flying a drone near a military facility, Australia’s ABC News reported.

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The third Australian faces charges of spying for a third country, Esmaili told Tansim without elaborating.

That detainee has been named in national reporting as University of Melbourne Islamic studies lecturer Dr. Kylie Moore-Gilbert. She was arrested in late 2018 after traveling to Iran to attend a course in Qom, a city outside of Tehran, according to ABC News. She reportedly had official permission and the correct visas to attend.

Moore-Gilbert will reportedly stand trial in Iran after earlier reports indicated she had been convicted and sentenced to 10 years in jail.

Moore-Gilbert will reportedly stand trial in Iran after earlier reports indicated she had been convicted and sentenced to 10 years in jail. (Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade)

While earlier reports have said Moore-Gilbert was sentenced to 10 years in prison, Esmaili is quoted in Tansim as saying "the court will decide whether this person is guilty or not," according to ABC News.

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All three were being held at the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Australian officials said last week they were petitioning Iran for their release.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.