Gibraltar’s police have arrested two more crew members of an Iranian oil tanker, which was illegally seized by British marines last week.
In a statement on Friday, police authorities of the British overseas territory said two more officers with the Grace 1 supertanker had been arrested, a day after they detained the ship’s captain and chief officer.
“All four men are Indian nationals and they have been granted full legal assistance,” the statement said.
Iran and Britain have been locked in a diplomatic dispute since July 4, when Gibraltar’s police, aided by a detachment of British Royal Marines, seized Grace 1 on alleged suspicion of carrying crude oil to Syria, which has been under EU sanctions since 2011.
Spain, which challenges the British ownership of Gibraltar, has, however, said the seizure was prompted by a US request to Britain and appeared to have taken place in Spanish waters.
Gibraltar has yet to announce the fate of the ship and its crew after the territory’s Supreme Court set a 14-day deadline last week for the country’s authorities to conduct “investigations” about the ship.
The Islamic Republic has condemned the seizure as “maritime piracy,” vowing to employ all its political and legal capacities to secure the release of the vessel and uphold its rights.
Iran has summoned the UK’s ambassador to Tehran over the seizure on three occasions, warning London of the consequences of the move.
Speaking on Friday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi also rejected allegations about the supertanker's alleged route, saying the tanker was not bound for Syria because no Syrian port could receive a vessel of such capacity
“The documents and evidence and the contradictory remarks made by the British all indicate that London’s allegation, legally speaking, is not that significant and noteworthy unless they would want to enter into a dangerous game under the influence of the Americans with no end in sight,” Mousavi said.
Marking a further escalation in tensions with Iran, Britain claimed on Thursday that Iranian speedboats had sought to block the passage of one of its tankers in the Persian Gulf, but backed off after warnings were issued by a British military vessel.
Iranian authorities, however, dismissed the allegations.