Iran charges Brit travel blogger Jolie King and boyfriend with spying for ‘taking pictures of secret military bases in Tehran with a drone’
IRANIAN officials have charged Brit Jolie King and boyfriend Mark Firkin with spying over claims they took pictures of military bases, say reports.
The travel-blogging couple were seized near Tehran in July after they were accused of flying a camera drone without a licence near top secret sites.
Captive Melbourne University lecturer Kylie Moore-Gilbert has also been accused of spying, the Tasnim news agency reports.
It is the first official confirmation they have been detained and comes after their families claimed last week they had been arrested in the Islamic republic.
“The news is correct,” said judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili. “One case is of two people taking photos of military sites and our forbidden areas."
He claimed the couple had been identified at the time and images were found on a drone they were using.
The development comes as a friend of the Brit-Aussie bloggers revealed they had planned to head to the UK for Christmas.
Pakistan-based tour operator Sanaullah Marwat said he was shocked by the jailing of Mark and Jolie, whom he described as “great friends and amazing humans”.
The couple, who are being held in Tehran’s shocking Evin Prison, posted about their travels within Pakistan’s remote Kalasha Valley on June 6.
Mr Marwat told News Corp he “was in shock to see poor couple going through such (a) situation. I’m 100 per cent sure they are innocent.”
“They were nature lovers, loved (the) beach as they carried their surfing board and were looking forward to end their journey in London by Christmas I guess,” he revealed.
On March 7 this year, Mr Firkin and Ms King marked what they said was “a loose geographical halfway point” in their journey after 600 days on the road.
“As you may have noticed we tend to move pretty slowly so rushing through the Middle East and Europe didn’t really appeal to us,” they said.
After Iran, Mr Firkin and Ms King had planned to travel through Turkey and into Europe, although they stated on their website that their itinerary was “still very loose”.
The bloggers have been detained at the same prison as Dr Moore-Gilbert, whose arrest one year ago was confirmed at the weekend.
Jolie has reportedly told cell mates she is happy she is “not forgotten” after learning that Australia’s Foreign Minister raised her case with the Iranian Government.
Richard Ratcliffe said his detained wife, British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, spoke to her at the weekend.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was herself arrested on charges of spying at Tehran's Imam Khomeini Airport in April 2016 and has always denied the claims.
Mr Ratcliffe claimed that Ms King had read a story about her imprisonment in an Iranian newspaper delivered to the prison.
“She was happy that it mentioned that the Australian Foreign Minister had spoken about her case with the Iranian Government and that she was not forgotten,” he said.
Mr Ratcliffe does not believe that Ms King has been allowed to speak to her family but suggested she may have been in telephone contact with the Australian Embassy and a lawyer.
Iran has arrested at least 30 foreigners, or citizens with dual nationality, since 2014.
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