Gibraltar releases Iran-operated tanker despite US pressure
Iran Press TV
Thu Aug 15, 2019 02:40PM
Gibraltar's government has released an Iranian-operated supertanker, which was seized by British marines in the Strait of Gibraltar on July 4, despite pressure from the United States for the vessel's continued detainment.
"Authorities in Gibraltar have released the Iranian supertanker Grace 1, which was seized on July 4 on suspicion it was shipping 2.1 million barrels of crude oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions," Reuters quoted the Gibraltar Chronicle as reporting on Thursday.
According to the report, the chief justice of Gibraltar's supreme court, Anthony Dudley, said there was no US application currently before the court.
Chief Justice Anthony Dudley said that since Iran had guaranteed in writing that the destination of the Grace 1 would not be a country "subject to European Union sanctions... there are no longer reasonable grounds to suspect that the detention of the Vessel is required."
Spain's Foreign Ministry reported after the incident that the UK had seized the vessel at the request of the US, which has been trying to trouble Iran's international oil vessels as part of its campaign of economic pressure against the Islamic Republic.
Earlier on Thursday, Gibraltar said that the US had applied to seize the Iranian-operated oil tanker after British media reported that the vessel's release was imminent following a set of diplomatic exchanges between Tehran and London.
"The US Department of Justice has applied to seize the Grace 1 on a number of allegations which are now being considered," the Gibraltar government said in a statement.
It added that the "matter will return to the Supreme Court of Gibraltar at 4 p.m. (1400 GMT) today."
A diplomatic dispute broke out between Iran and the UK on July 4, when Britain's naval forces unlawfully seized Grace 1 and its cargo of 2.1 million barrels of oil in the Strait of Gibraltar under the pretext that the supertanker had been suspected of carrying crude to Syria in violation of the European Union's unilateral sanctions against the Arab country.
However, reports show the confiscation took place upon a call by the US.
Tehran rejected London's claim that the tanker was heading to Syria, slamming the seizure as "maritime piracy."
Iran's Ports and Maritime Organization said Tuesday that Britain was expected to soon free Grace 1, after the two sides exchanged certain documents to pave the way for the supertanker's release.
Iran's FM: Trump's piracy attempt indicates his contempt for law
Soon after the report emerged about the release of the Iranian-operated tanker, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif took to Twitter noting that the seizure of the tanker proved the Trump administration's contempt for the law.
"This piracy attempt is indicative of Trump admin's contempt for the law," Iran's top diplomat said.
Zarif added that the US effort to prevent release of the Iranian tanker was aimed at abusing "the legal system to steal our property on the high seas."
He said this vain attempt followed the US failure in achieving its anti-Iranian goals through economic terrorism.
'US faced humiliating defeat in its effort to prevent tanker's release'
Following the decision by the Gibraltar court, Iran's Ambassador to UK Hamid Baeidinejad said in a tweet on his official Twitter page that the decision by the officials of Gibraltar put an end to 40 days of illegal seizure of the tanker, which carries the Iranian oil.
"Up to the last minute, the United States tried in vain to prevent the release of the tanker, but was faced with a humiliating defeat," Iran's UK envoy added.
Baeidinejad stated that all preliminary steps have been taken to ensure the tanker's movement toward free waters and "the vessel will soon leave the Gibraltar region."
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