A COURT in Gibraltar has ruled a seized Iranian tanker is to be released, despite a last minute intervention by US authorities.

Grace 1 had been carrying Iranian oil when it was stopped by Royal Marines on July 4, triggering an escalation with Tehran.

The decision to release the ship came after Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo received written assurances from Iran that the oil was not bound for Syria.

In a statement Picardo said: “In light of the assurances we have received, there are no longer any reasonable grounds for the continued legal detention of the Grace 1 in order to ensure compliance with the EU sanctions regulation.

“Gibraltar can be proud of the role it has discharged in guarding the entrance to the Mediterranean and enforcing EU sanctions.”

Fabian Picardo visits troops
PICARDO: Freed the vessel following reassurances from Tehran

The 15,000 tonne supertanker had been suspected of carrying crude oil to the Banias refinery in Syria, in breach of EU sanctions.

A team of 30 marines, from 42 Commando, boarded the Panama-flagged vessel using a helicopter and speed boats with no shots being fired.

The captain of the tanker would later accuse the Royal Marines who detained his ship of using excessive force.

MARINES: Boarded the vessel last month on suspension oil was being smuggled to Syria

The seizure of the tanker sparked a diplomatic crisis between the UK and Iran, with the British flagged Stena Impera tanker by seized by Iranian forces in retaliation

A spokesperson for the Stena Impero’s owners said that the Grace 1 ‘is an entirely separate situation from our perspective’ but its released ‘could be seen as a positive step’ for the Stena Impero.

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