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Gibraltar releases seized Iran tanker, despite US detention request

Gibraltar authorities on Thursday (local time) released an Iran oil tanker which they had detained six weeks ago.
Gibraltar releases seized Iran tanker, despite US detention request

Gibraltar authorities on Thursday (local time) released an Iran oil tanker which they had detained six weeks ago.

This comes hours after the United States requested Gibraltor authorities to seize the ship, reported New York Times.

Grace 1, Iran's oil tanker, was seized off the shore of Gibraltar, a semiautonomous British territory, by British Royal Marines last month. The British alleged that Iran breached sanctions by exporting crude oil to Syria, reported Al Jazeera.

Twenty four Indian crew members were also onboard Grace 1. In retaliation, Tehran quickly seized the British-flagged tanker, Steno Impero, in the Strait of Hormuz.

However, there is no official confirmation whether Iran will also release the Steno Impero. All 24 crew members have also been released, confirmed Indian Government.

The Gibraltar government, early in the morning, said that the United States had applied to seize Grace 1.

A court in Gibraltar ruled last month that detained Iran vessel can be held for an additional 30 days, the period which ended on Sunday. The next hearing was scheduled for Thursday morning.

However, when the hearing started, Gibraltar official revealed about the US' request. The hearing was adjourned until later the day.

"The U.S. 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 brief statement.

However, the tanker was released anyway.

Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, who himself is facing sanctions from the US, termed Washington's request as a "piracy attempt". "The U.S. attempted to abuse the legal system to steal our property on the high seas," he wrote on Twitter.

Iran officials had accused United Kingdom of seizing the vessel on the behalf of the US.

Iran and the US are at the loggerhead since US President Donald Trump in 2018 decided to withdraw from the 2015 Nuclear deal. Trump has accused Iran of not following the terms of the deal.

( With inputs from ANI )

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