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Three Iranian-Arab separatists arrested in Denmark over Saudi spy claims

Individuals are believed to have collected information about people in Denmark that was passed onto Saudi intelligence
All three members of ASMLA have been charged by Danish police for supporting an attack in Iran in 2018 (AFP/File photo)

Three members of an Iranian-Arab opposition group have been arrested in Denmark on suspicion of spying for Saudi Arabia.

The three members of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz (ASMLA) had already been charged by Danish police for supporting an attack in Iran in 2018 that resulted in more than 20 deaths.

"It is the view of PET (The Danish Security and Intelligence Service) that the three people, in the period from 2012 to 2018, have been spying for a Saudi Arabian intelligence service," PET chief Finn Borch Andersen told reporters on Monday.

Borch said, among other things, that the three individuals "collected information about individuals in Denmark and abroad, and passed on this information to a Saudi intelligence service".

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A pretrial detention hearing is due on 4 February, and until then the three Iranians are being kept under close police protection.

One individual was the subject of a 2018 assassination plot that was prevented by PET after a major police operation.

PET said a Norwegian citizen of Iranian background, who was held in connection with the October 2018 plot, was still under arrest.

PET also said on Monday that it had arrested in absentia a member of the Iranian intelligence service on suspicion of espionage and complicity in the 2018 murder attempt.

The Iranian government has previously denied any connection with the alleged plot.

Ahwazi Arabs, who are a minority in Iran, believe that they have deliberately been deprived of decent living standards and civil rights, and have even been forced to relocate for non-Arab citizens.

The insurgent group was formed in 1999 and advocates for a separate Arab state in Iran's southwestern Khuzestan province. 

Iran considers the group a "terrorist organisation" and blames it for a September 2018 attack on a military parade that killed at least 25 people in Khuzestan's capital, Ahvaz.

In 2017, Ahmad Mola Nissi, an Iranian exile who established ASMLA, was shot dead in the Netherlands.