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Iran sentences 3 to long prison terms on spying charges

Iran sentences 3 to long prison terms on spying chargesIran on Tuesday said it sentenced three people — one woman and two men — to lengthy prison terms on security and spying charges. The men were convicted of spying for Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency. Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said in remarks broadcast on state TV that the convicted woman is Aras Amiri, who had worked for the British Council while allegedly spying on cultural activities in Iran.



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Beijing confirms arrest of Australian for spying

Beijing confirms arrest of Australian for spyingAn Australian academic has been arrested in China for spying, Beijing said Tuesday, prompting Canberra to demand the country upholds “basic standards” of justice. Yang Jun, who also goes by his pen name Yang Hengjun, was detained in January shortly after making a rare return to China from the United States. Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said earlier on Tuesday that she was “very concerned” that Yang — a former official turned author — had been arrested on “suspicion of espionage”.



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China Formally Arrests Australian Writer on Suspicion of Spying

China Formally Arrests Australian Writer on Suspicion of Spying(Bloomberg) — An Australian writer detained in China seven months ago has been formally arrested on suspicion of espionage, triggering swift demands from the government in Canberra that he be allowed to return home.Foreign Minister Marise Payne said she was “concerned and disappointed” that Yang Hengjun, a Chinese native who’s now an Australian citizen, would “continue to be criminally detained.” He is one of several detained foreign nationals whose cases have raised concerns about operating on the mainland. Two Canadians — Michael Kovrig, a Hong Kong-based security analyst on leave from Canada’s foreign service, and entrepreneur Michael Spavor — were detained in December and later accused of espionage. “It is important, and we expect, that basic standards of justice and procedural fairness are met,” Payne said in a statement Tuesday. “I respectfully reiterate my previous requests that if Dr. Yang is being held for his political beliefs, he should be released.”Yang was detained in the southern city of Guangzhou in January after a flight from New York. His lawyer Rob Stary told the Australian newspaper Tuesday that the precise nature of the espionage allegations weren’t clear, though apparently relate to his “democracy activism.”China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.At the time of his detention, the Foreign Ministry in Beijing said Yang was being investigated for “criminal activities endangering national security.” Yang previously was a Chinese foreign affairs official in Beijing, before becoming an Australian citizen and novelist, the Australian newspaper reported earlier this year.Payne said Yang had been held in “harsh conditions” without charge and denied access to lawyers or his family. She said she had discussed the issue twice with her Chinese counterpart and written to him three times raising her concerns.Yang has been visited by embassy officials seven times since his detention and a visit is scheduled for today, she said.“I will continue to advocate strongly on behalf of Dr. Yang to ensure a satisfactory explanation of the basis for his arrest, that he is treated humanely and that he is allowed to return home,” Payne said.(Updates with details of other foreigners detained in second paragraph)To contact the reporter on this story: Edward Johnson in Sydney at ejohnson28@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Edward Johnson at ejohnson28@bloomberg.net, Peter VercoeFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.



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UPDATE 2-Russia extends detention of ex-U.S. Marine accused of spying

UPDATE 2-Russia extends detention of ex-U.S. Marine accused of spyingA court on Friday extended by two months the pre-trial detention of a former U.S. Marine who has been held in Russia on suspicion of spying since December and who accused Moscow prison authorities of injuring him. The court ordered Paul Whelan held until the end of October, as Russian news agencies reported that authorities said they planned to wrap up their investigation into him in two weeks and present definitive accusations. Whelan, who holds U.S., British, Canadian and Irish passports, was detained by agents from Russia’s Federal Security Service in a Moscow hotel room on Dec. 28 after a Russian acquaintance gave him a flash drive which his lawyer said he thought contained holiday photos, but which actually held classified information.



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North Korea says released Australian student was spying

North Korea says released Australian student was spyingNorth Korea said Saturday that an Australian student who it detained for a week had spread anti-Pyongyang propaganda and engaged in spying by providing photos and other materials to news outlets with critical views toward the North. Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency, or KCNA, said North Korea deported Alek Sigley on Thursday after he pleaded for forgiveness for his activities, which the agency said infringed on the country’s sovereignty.



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Trudeau 'very concerned' that China suspects Canadian of spying

Trudeau 'very concerned' that China suspects Canadian of spyingPrime Minister Justin Trudeau voiced strong concern Monday after Chinese state media reported that a former Canadian diplomat detained in the country was suspected of spying and stealing state secrets. “We are obviously very concerned with the position that China has taken,” Trudeau told reporters, referring to the case of Michael Kovrig, who was detained in December following the arrest in Canada of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou. Trudeau reiterated that Canada considers China to have arbitrarily detained both the former diplomat and his compatriot Michael Spavor — a businessman suspected by China of being a key source of intelligence for Kovrig.



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Trudeau 'concerned' as China suspects Canadian of spying

Trudeau 'concerned' as China suspects Canadian of spyingPrime Minister Justin Trudeau voiced strong concern Monday that China suspects a detained former Canadian diplomat of spying and stealing state secrets. The allegations against Michael Kovrig mark a new escalation in the diplomatic row between Beijing and Ottawa stemming from Canada’s arrest of Meng Wanzhou, an executive from Chinese telecoms giant Huawei. “We are obviously very concerned with the position that China has taken,” Trudeau told reporters.



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North Korea's Kim shuffles nuclear talks team after defections, spying allegations

North Korea's Kim shuffles nuclear talks team after defections, spying allegationsKim has purged and replaced many top diplomats and officials who served his father and grandfather with new, younger advisors as he gears up to meet U.S. President Donald Trump in Vietnam next week. Among the most significant changes, Kim has appointed little-known Kim Hyok Chol to spearhead working-level talks with U.S. nuclear envoy Stephen Biegun. A former ambassador to Spain who was expelled in 2017 after North Korean nuclear and missile tests, Kim Hyok Chol has been working at the State Affairs Commission, a top governing body chaired by the young leader, a South Korean official said.



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Former Air Force intelligence officer charged with spying for Iran and revealing defense secrets

Former Air Force intelligence officer charged with spying for Iran and revealing defense secretsFormer Air Force intel officer charged with espionage for Iran govt



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Former US intelligence officer charged with spying for Iran after defection

Former US intelligence officer charged with spying for Iran after defectionA former US Air Force intelligence officer has been charged with helping Iran target ex-colleagues with cyberattacks after defecting to the country in what was dubbed a “betrayal” of America.  Monica Witt, 39, was accused of switching sides after more than a decade of US military service and identifying American intelligence officers and their personal Facebook accounts for the Iranian regime.  Messages quoted in an indictment unsealed yesterday showed Witt saying that she wanted to “put the training I received to good use instead of evil” around the time of her defection.  Four Iranians said to have been involved in the cyber-attacks were also charged along with two Iran-based businesses, New Horizon Organization and Net Peygard Samavat Company.  The five individuals charged are all at large, meaning the chances of a successful prosecution remain unclear. The investigation to uncover the alleged crimes was being run for years.  John Demers, the US assistant attorney general, said: “This case underscores the dangers to our intelligence professionals and the lengths our adversaries will go to identify them, expose them, target them, and, in a few rare cases, ultimately turn them against the nation they swore to protect." Image released on February 13, 2019 showing the missing person page of the FBI website for Monica Witt Credit: HO/AFP/Getty Images Witt, a US citizen, worked for the US Air Force as an intelligence specialist and special agent between 1997 and 2008. She worked with the Defence Department as a contractor until 2010.  During her service she was given access to secret and top secret information relating to counterintelligence, including material that contained the true names of secret agents and sources.  Early in her career she was taught the Farsi language and was deployed in a number of overseas locations, carrying out missions to counter America’s enemies.  Witt repeatedly promised to act in America’s interests and not share classified information she accessed, according to US prosecutors – pledges which she is accused of flagrantly breaking.  The first signs of Witt’s alleged defection came when she attended the Iranian New Horizon Organization’s “Hollywoodism” conference in February 2012.  The gathering was sponsored by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a branch of Iran’s armed forces which was recently sanctioned by the Trump administration for its “malign” activities.  The conference was partly aimed at “condemning American moral standards and promoting anti-US propaganda”, US prosecutors said. By August 2013, just 18 months later, Witt had fled to Iran.  Messages between Witt and an unnamed Iranian-American who helped arrange the trip which were published in the indictment give an insight into her thinking before the defection. “Should i thank the sec of defense . . u were well trained,” the unnamed individual allegedly wrote to Witt in one message before her trip, appearing to reference the US defence secretary, her old boss.  Witt responded: “LOL thank the sec of defense? For me? Well, I loved the work, and I am endeavoring to put the training I received to good use instead of evil.” She added a smiling emoji and the words: “Thanks for giving me the opportunity.” In another message Witt wrote “If all else fails, I just may go public with a program and do like Snowden :) ”. The apparent reference is Edward Snowden, the former CIA employee who leaked classified material in 2013 and then fled to Russia.  Once Witt was in Iran she was given housing and computer equipment by Iranian government officials, according to US prosecutors.  She is then accused of disclosing classified information about secret US projects and combing Facebook under an alias to identify former colleagues, putting together “target packages” that would help the Iranians find, track and “neutralize” the threat posed.  The four Iranians charged in the indictment then began a “malicious” campaign of targeting Witt’s former colleagues, according to US prosecutors.  The allegations included using fictitious or imposter Facebook accounts to send messages with links that would compromise their computers once clicked.  The Iranian nationals charged with computer intrusion and aggravated identity theft are Mojtaba Masoumpour, Behzad Mesri, Hossein Parvar and Mohamad Paryar.  Terry Phillips, a US special agent with the Air Force, said: “The alleged actions of Monica Witt in assisting a hostile nation are a betrayal of our nation’s security, our military, and the American people.   “While violations like this are extremely rare, her actions as alleged are an affront to all who have served our great nation.”  It is not known how those charged will plead if the case came to court. The five individuals charged had not commented publicly in the hours immediately after the indictment was unsealed.



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