About 30 UK Royal Marines used brutal force when helping Gibraltar authorities capture an Iranian tanker near the Strait of Gibraltar in early July, the tanker’s captain told the BBC.
The captain, who spoke on condition of anonymity, claimed that during the seizure, the marines ordered his 28-strong unarmed crew to kneel on the deck at gunpoint, shouting “look forward, look forward”.
According to him, a military helicopter suddenly landed on the tanker in a “very dangerous” manner before he lowered a ladder to let police board the tanker, in line with previous request that he received on via radio.
“They didn't care whether I was master [captain of the tanker]. I was in a state of shock, everybody was in a state of shock. How do you come on a ship like this with armed forces and such brute force. For what reason?”, he noted, adding that the marines could have just told him that he had been detained.
When asked if he believes in accusations that the tanker was illegally delivering Iranian oil to Syria, the captain said he had “followed company procedures”, and that he was not in the know about the EU’s anti-Syrian sanctions.
On 4 July, port and law enforcement agencies of the British overseas territory of Gibraltar, aided by the UK Royal Marines, seized the supertanker Grace 1, claiming that the vessel was transferring crude oil to Syria from Iran in violation of EU sanctions.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry, in turn, rejected accusations, stating that a Syrian port mentioned by the UK as the tanker's destination would not be able to accommodate the vessel.
While London called the tanker’s seizure a “standard boarding” which was in line with “the highest standards of professionalism”, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif slammed it as a “pure piracy” which he said “sets a dangerous precedent”.