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Stena Impero: Iran sets free 7 crew members from seized British tanker

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif

Tehran, Sep 4  Iran has released seven of the 23 crew members on Wednesday of a Swedish-owned, British-flagged tanker ‘ Stena Impero’ seized in the Strait of Hormuz in July on the basis of humanitarian grounds.

Iran had impounded the Stena Impero vessel on July 19 in the Strait of Hormuz for allegedly breaking international maritime rules, causing tensions with Britain as it made a proposal for naval missions to escort ships in the Persian Gulf.

The sailors – five Indians, one Latvian and one Russian – had already left the Stena Impero, a foreign ministry spokesman told state television.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said “They have left the vessel and the final procedures are underway to send them back to their countries,” he said, adding that the decision had been made in line with Iran’s “humanitarian policies”.

“The consular status and individual permits of the crew were reviewed, and after further consideration and also for humanitarian grounds, some of the crew were allowed to leave the ship and return to daily life,” Efe news quoted Mousavi as saying.

He stressed the Iranian authorities had “no problem with the crew and the captain” and the ship has been seized on the issue of “violations that the vessel committed”.The UK argued that Tehran has no right to obstruct the vessel’s passage and accused it of an “act of state piracy”.

The Stena Impero’s seizure came after the British Royal Navy patrol vessel guards on July 4 stopped the Iranian oil supertanker Grace 1 off the coast of Gibraltar on suspicion of carrying oil to Syria, a country subject to European Union sanctions.

The Iranian tanker was freed on August 15 by order of a court in Gibraltar.

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