Gibraltar releases Iranian tanker crew without charge | News | DW | 13.07.2019
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Gibraltar releases Iranian tanker crew without charge

Police said the four crew members of the Grace 1 are still under investigation. Their release came as the UK said it would send a second naval frigate to the Persian Gulf amid escalating tensions with Iran.

Police in the British territory of Gibraltar on Friday released all four crew members of an Iranian tanker that was detained on suspicion of illegally transporting oil to Syria.

The crew of the Grace 1 were bailed without charge and their release is subject to conditions, Royal Gibraltar Police wrote on Twitter. Officers had arrested the ship's captain and chief officer on Thursday and two second officers earlier on Friday.

The probe into whether the ship had breached European Union sanctions on Syria was still ongoing, police added.

British marines boarded the Grace 1 on July 4 as it passed through the Strait of Gibraltar to enter the Mediterranean Sea.

Iran denounced what it said was an "illegal interception" and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned the United Kingdom of unspecified "consequences" if it did not release the tanker and its crew.

On Thursday, the UK said three Iranian gunboats tried to stop and divert a British supertanker in the Strait of Hormuz, forcing naval frigate HMS Montrose to intervene to warn the ships away. Iran denied the incident took place.

The UK said Friday that it was sending a second navy ship, the HMS Duncan, to the oil-rich Persian Gulf as part of a pre-planned rotation to eventually relieve the HMS Montrose. A government source told the AFP news agency that the deployment had been sped up by several days.

Watch video 01:41

Britain says Iranian boats tried to block tanker in Gulf

The UK also said it was raising its threat level for ships traveling through Iranian waters to "critical."

Tensions are high in the Persian Gulf following separate attacks on several tankers that the US has blamed on Iran. The oil-rich country has denied any involvement.

US President Donald Trump said Friday that Iran was "treading on very dangerous territory."

Trump said: "Iran, if you're listening, you better be careful."

amp/sms (AFP, dpa)

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