An Iranian oil tanker has been released after being detained in Gibraltar last month. The tanker, called Grace 1, was detained on suspicions of sanctions-busting and was stopped by Royal Marines on July 4, triggering a standoff with Tehran. The decision to release the ship was taken hours after the US launched a separate last-minute legal move to detain the vessel.
After a short hearing on Thursday, the Supreme Court was told Gibraltar had received a request from the US Department of Justice for mutual legal assistance in a bid to seize the ship.
However, Chief Justice Anthony Dudley said there was no formal US application: “That’s not before me.
“There are no applications in relation to the US letters of request [for mutual legal assistance].”
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif condemned the US attempt to stop the tanker, accusing the Trump administration of attempted “piracy”.
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Mr Zarif wrote on Twitter: “Having failed to accomplish its objectives through its #EconomicTerrorism—including depriving cancer patients of medicine— the US attempted to abuse the legal system to steal our property on the high seas.
“This piracy attempt is indicative of Trump admin’s contempt for the law.”
A couple of weeks after the oil tanker was stopped, Iran seized a British-flagged tanker called the Stena Impero in the Gulf.
Despite official denials, there has been speculation of a swap if the Grace 1 is freed.
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Will release of the Iranian tanker end Gulf crisis?
The release of the Iranian tanker could point to a possible resolution of the stand-off between Britain and Iran.
However, relations between the US and Iran have deteriorated sharply since US President Donald Trump took office in 2017, with the two countries coming close to an armed conflict in June.
The US bid to a last-minute legal move for Gibraltar to detain the vessel, could risk raising tensions in the Gulf further.
The Iranian foreign minister has already accused Washington of attempted piracy, so and end to the Gulf crisis is still to happen.
The US has also blamed Iran for a series of attacks on tankers in waters off Gulf Arab states over the summer, an accusation Iran denies.
In June, Mr Trump was reportedly close to bombing sites in Iran in response to the downing of an American drone.
Washington also suspects Tehran of continuing efforts to develop nuclear weapons, but Tehran has always denied this claim.