US asks Gibraltar to hold Iranian tanker in detention

The US requested Thursday (August 15th) that Gibraltar hold in detention an Iranian supertanker at the centre of a stand-off between Tehran and London that sparked tensions in the oil-rich Gulf, AFP reported.

The British overseas territory's Supreme Court was set to release the Grace 1, which is suspected of smuggling oil to Syria, when the US Justice department applied for the vessel to be seized.

The move was announced by attorney Joseph Triay and delayed the court decision on the vessel's fate.

Triay did not detail the basis for the US request other than as "mutual legal assistance".

"The US Department of Justice has applied to seize the Grace 1 on a number of allegations which are now being considered," a government spokesman said.

Chief Justice Anthony Dudley made clear that were it not for the US move, "the ship would have sailed".

The Gibraltar Supreme Court decision on the fate of the ship was adjourned until after 4 p.m.

The captain and three officers from Grace 1, had their police bail lifted and were formally released without any charges, a Gibraltar government spokesman said.

The supertanker, carrying 2.1 million barrels of Iranian oil, was seized by Gibraltar police and British special forces on July 4th.

It was suspected of carrying oil to war-torn Syria in violation of separate EU and US sanctions.

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