Iranian oil tanker crew bailed without charges but vessel remains impounded in Gibraltar

The four crew members of the Iranian oil tanker seized by UK last week in Gibraltar have been released from jail without charges, yet the vessel remains detained under the dubious pretext of Tehran violating the Syria oil embargo.

The bailed-out crew include the master of the vessel and the chief officer, who had been arrested on Thursday, and two second officers that were detained on Friday. All have been granted police bail “with conditions,” Royal Gibraltar police said in shorts statement, without specifying the details.

However, the supertanker Grace 1, seized by Gibraltar authorities on UK’s behalf last week, will remain “detained” amid the ongoing probe into alleged “sanctions violations.” The Panama-flagged tanker had a 28-person crew comprising mostly of Indian nationals, but also some Pakistanis and Ukrainians. They are being interviewed as witnesses, Gibraltar officials noted earlier.

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The British Overseas Territory justified its highly controversial move by claiming the vessel was en route to Syria, in breach of European Union sanctions against Damascus.

Tehran called the justification laughable and called the move a pure and simple piracy, claiming that the UK had no legal right to seize the tanker. “Iran is neither a member of the EU nor subject to any European oil embargo,” Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif said.

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The seizure of the cargo ship has exacerbated the already heated tensions in the Persian Gulf.  The US has been threatening to sanction any country importing Iranian oil, and is now pressuring allies to form a “freedom of navigation” armada against Tehran.

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