News ID: 256358
Published: 1228 GMT July 26, 2019

Iran frees Indian sailors, gives consular access to others

Iran frees Indian sailors, gives consular access to others

After impounding two oil tankers for legal violations in the Strait of Hormuz, Iran freed a number of the crewmen and granted consular access to other remaining crew members.

India's Foreign Ministry confirmed on Friday the release of the Panama-flagged MT Riah oil tanker's 12 Indian crewmen. The vessel was apprehended by Iranian authorities on July 14, Press TV reported.

The vessel was detained for smuggling contraband fuel out of the country, a claim that was later confirmed by Panama's maritime authority.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry also announced that it had granted crewmen of the impounded British-flagged Stena Impero access to their respective consular representatives.

The Stena Impero was impounded by Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) last week for numerous violations of international maritime regulations when it was passing through the Strait of Hormuz. 

The British-flagged vessel has 23 crew members, 18 of which were from India. The other crew members are from Russia, Latvia and the Philippines.

Indian Minister of State for External Affairs Vellamvelly Muraleedharan published images on Thursday showing Indian consular officials meeting with the vessel's crew.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry said that crew members belonging to other nationalities are also due to meet their consular representatives soon.

Shipping firm Stena Bulk, owner of the impounded vessel, also made contact with the ship's master on Tuesday, saying that the crewmembers were safe and that there had been good cooperation with the Iranians. The crew had also spoken to their families.

The apprehension of the British vessel last week came two weeks after British naval forces unlawfully seized supertanker Grace 1 and its cargo of 2.1 million barrels of Iranian oil in the Strait of Gibraltar.

Britain claimed the seizure was based on suspicions that the Iranian tanker was carrying crude oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions against the Arab country.

Iran has condemned the seizure of its tanker as “maritime piracy,” vowing to employ all its political and legal capacities to secure the release of the vessel and uphold its rights.

Last week, the British overseas territory of Gibraltar extended the detention of Iranian tanker for a month.

On Thursday, British media reported that the British government has said it will provide a Royal Navy escort for British-flagged ships passing through the Strait of Hormuz, advising ship owners to provide details of their route.

On Monday, then-foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, had said that the UK would seek to create a European-led mission in the Persian Gulf.

The announcement has been denounced by Iranian officials, with Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan, a top military advisor to Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, warning the UK about the possible ramifications of the move.

"The UK's proposal for a European force in the Strait of Hormuz could lead to unpredictable consequences [for London]," General Dehqan told Al Jazeera on Wednesday.

"Our equation in the Strait of Hormuz is that either everyone enjoys full security or no one does."



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