Australia says it busted Iran surveillance op targeting activist

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Canberra said Tuesday it had busted an Iranian surveillance operation targeting an activist who joined demonstrations in Australia over the death of Mahsa Amini.

Iran has been rocked by nationwide protests after 22-year-old Amini died in police custody, where she was being held for breaching the country’s dress rules for women.

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Tehran unleashed a major crackdown on protesters, sparking solidarity demonstrations around the world, including in Australia.

Australian Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said Tehran had been caught spying on the family of an Iranian-Australian who had participated in the local protests.

“It is perfectly legal for anyone in Australia to criticize a foreign regime, as tens of thousands of people across the country have been doing in response to events in Iran,” she said in a speech to the Australian National University’s national security college.

“What we absolutely will not tolerate, under any circumstances, are attempts by foreign regimes to disrupt peaceful protests, encourage violence or suppress views.”

Without providing details, O’Neil said Iran had carried out “extensive research” on the Australia-based individual “and their family.”

“I’m pleased to say our agencies were on to it like a shot,” she said.

“We’re not going to stand back and have Australians or indeed visitors to our country, watched and tracked by foreign governments on our soil.”

AFP has approached Iran’s embassy in Australia for its reaction to the allegations.

The Australian government is typically reluctant to blame spying or hacking attempts on particular countries.

Asked last December if Iran was spying on Australian residents, the Australian Federal Police said it was investigating a “range of allegations involving foreign principals.”

Iranian police have detained thousands of people since nationwide protests broke out following the September 16 death of Amini.

Authorities say hundreds of people, including dozens of security personnel, have been killed during the demonstrations, which they describe as “riots.”

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