Gibraltar Supreme Court says Iranian tanker is free to sail

Gibraltar Supreme Court says Iranian tanker is free to sail

Gibraltar's Supreme Court has ruled that an Iranian oil tanker is free to sail, just hours after the United States made a last-minute attempt to keep the vessel under detention, authorities said, Al Jazeera reports.

Grace 1 had been commandeered by the British Royal Marines off the coast of Gibraltar on July 4 on suspicion it was carrying Iranian crude oil to Syria in breach of European Union sanctions against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Iran had denied the accusation and called the seizure "an act of piracy" committed at the behest of the US.

The Gibraltar government on Thursday reiterated its conviction that the ship had been bound for Syria with $140 m worth of light crude oil on board, in violation of separate EU and US sanctions. The boat's navigation plan "showed a fully marked-out route" from the Gulf to the Syrian port of Baniyas, the government said. 

Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said he had met Iranian officials on July 19 in London "with a will for a de-escalation with regard to all the various problems arising from the detention of the Grace 1".

The Supreme Court decision to release the tanker finally came on Thursday after Iran guaranteed in writing that the Grace 1 would not be heading to countries "subject to European Union sanctions" once it left the port, and therefore the ship was "no longer subject to detention', Chief Justice Anthony Dudley said.