Gibraltar court extends detention of oil tanker

By Muhammad Mussa

LONDON (AA) – Gibraltar’s supreme court on Friday extended the detention period of the Iranian oil tanker after ruling that it had breached EU sanctions by shipping oil to Syria.

The supreme court was granted power by the government to detain the Grace 1 oil tanker for another month, denying repeated calls from Iran to release the vessel and its crew.

“At a private meeting of the Supreme Court on an application by the Attorney General, the Court has extended the period of detention of the vessel, Grace 1, for a further 30 days and has set a new hearing for 15 August 2019,” the Gibraltar government said in a press release.

In a statement made at the Gibraltar parliament, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said that his government would work closely with the Iranian government to ensure the release of the oil tanker after following all legal requirements.

"We look forward to continuing to work constructively and positively with officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran to facilitate the release of the Grace 1 pursuant to the satisfaction of all legal requirements" Picardo said.

On Wednesday, the chief minister met with senior Iranian officials in London and held talks aimed at defusing tensions between the U.K. and Iran both in the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf.

Last week, the captain and chief officer of the detained oil tanker were arrested by the Gibraltar police services after a weeklong investigation.

On the same day, a British warship prevented three Iranian navy vessels from obstructing the course of a British tanker exiting the Persian gulf. The government accused Iran of breaching international law as the tanker was not in Iranian waters.

Moreover, the U.K. dispatched a second warship to the Persian Gulf to support U.K. forces in the region and to ensure the safety of British commercial ships.

Iran has demanded the release of its crew and vessel, accusing the royal navy of piracy and has threatened London of retaliatory measures, a rhetoric that is raising tensions between the two nations in a region already inflamed with war and brinkmanship with the west.

Royal navy marines and commandos boarded the Syria-bound oil tanker on 4 July preventing the vessel from entering the Mediterranean.

The EU imposed a series of sanctions against the Assad regime in response to the heavy crackdown on peaceful demonstrations in 2011 and the ensuing civil war.