Gibraltar rejects US pressure to hold Iranian oil tanker

Cheryl Sanders
August 18, 2019

The Gibraltar Government has declined a USA request for Mutual Legal Assistance in detaining the Grace 1, which comes following a warrant issued on Friday from the United States Department of Justice.

"This piracy attempt is indicative of Trump admin's contempt for the law". Iran has repeatedly denied this.

"The US with its last minute cowardly attempts sought to stop the tanker leaving detention which faced a humiliating defeat", he added.

The US Justice Department says the Grace 1 - now renamed the Adrian Darya - and its oil are subject to forfeiture because of US sanctions violations.

However, Gibraltar said on Sunday it could not comply with that request because it was bound by European Union law.

"The EU sanctions regime against Iran - which is applicable in Gibraltar - is much narrower than that applicable in the USA", the government said in a statement.

Tehran said it was ready to dispatch its naval fleet to escort the tanker - now renamed the Adrian Darya-1 - if required.

A USA attempt to seize an Iranian oil tanker was rejected by a Gibraltar court on Sunday, paving the way for the ship to resume its journey in the Mediterranean under the Iranian flag and with a new name.

Photographs posted on social media showed the vessel, painted with its new name and flying the Iranian flag, being readied for departure by men in orange uniforms.

A new crew is expected to arrive and sail the tanker to an undisclosed destination as early as August 18.

But Gibraltar lifted the detention order last Thursday after Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said he had secured written assurances from Tehran that the cargo would not go to Syria.

Gibraltar's government announced this week it was releasing the supertanker despite pressure from the United States for the vessel's continued detainment.

"We note the Government of Gibraltar has received assurances from Iran that the Grace 1 will not proceed to Syria".

"We will not stand by and allow Iran - or anyone - to bypass vital European Union sanctions on a regime that has deployed chemical weapons against its own people", the spokesperson said.

That tanker, the Stena Impero, is still detained.

The Gibraltar government said that its investigations produced evidence confirming that at the time of its detention the Grace 1 was "indeed carrying its cargo to the Baniyas refinery in Syria", which was in contravention of Article 14 of the EU Regulation on Sanctions on Syria.

The US claims the tanker is controlled by Iran's Revolutionary Guard, which is the target of its sanctions.

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