Israel tries to seize Iran oil tanker stormed by Marines off Gibraltar
AN IRANIAN oil tanker seized by Royal Marines off Gibraltar is at centre of a fresh legal storm with an Israeli activist organisation trying to block its return.
The group, Shurat HaDin, which has links to Israeli secret service Mossad, is asking the Supreme Court of Gibraltar to grant an injunction to seize the vessel and its cargo. It wants to use the proceeds to pay damages for the victims of terrorism allegedly sponsored by Iran. But the Israeli intervention is threatening to derail British diplomatic efforts to defuse tensions in the Gulf.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt met EU counterparts yesterday for talks aimed at saving the Iran nuclear deal from collapse.
Mr Hunt warned that there was only a “small window” left to salvage the deal — in which Iran agreed to limit its sensitive nuclear activities and allow in international inspectors — after the US reimposed sanctions.
But his efforts have been complicated by the legal action from Shurat HaDin.
The organisation has won a series of judgments in US courts holding Iran responsible for the murder of Israeli-Americans by Islamist groups including Hamas and Hezbollah.
Tanker Grace 1 was seized by Royal Marines of Gibraltar (Image: GETTY/REX)
An Israeli group is launching legal action to take possession of Tanker Grace 1 (Image: REUTERS)
Shurat HaDin president Nitsana Darshan-Leitner she was hopeful of winning the case.
She told The Times: “The Grace 1 in Gibraltar is a rare opportunity for the victims to seize Iranian assets and for European governments to show that they are unforgiving in the struggle against terrorism.”
A spokesman for the Iranian Embassy in London said: “The position is clear. The tanker has been seized illegally and should be released as soon as possible.”
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “The investigations being conducted around the Grace 1 are a matter for Gibraltar.
“It would be inappropriate to speculate on hypothetical legal action.”
Tanker Grace 1 was said to be transporting oil to Syria (Image: REUTERS)
Grace 1 was seized by Royal Marines as it passed through the Straits of Gibraltar earlier this month.
The UK said it was carrying oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions and that its seizure was unconnected with its Iranian origins or sanctions that the US imposed on Tehran after it withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal.
Iran then tried to seize a British tanker off the Strait of Hormuz and warned other UK vessels would be targeted in retaliation.
Meanwhile, a British warship steaming to the Gulf to help protect shipping along the busy trade route has been placed on high alert after an Iranian “bomb boat” was discovered in its path.
Sources said a remote-controlled Blowfish, believed to have been deployed by Iran’s Houthi allies, was spotted in the Red Sea by Saudi forces.