Tehran rejects rumors of releasing South Korean-flagged tanker seized by IRGC
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman has rejected rumors about the possible release of a South Korean-flagged tanker that was seized in the Persian Gulf waters earlier this month by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC)'s Navy for repetitive violation of maritime environmental law.
Emphasizing that any final decision on the fate of the South Korean ship will be made by Iran’s independent Judiciary, Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Saturday evening, "The positions and decisions of the Judiciary [on this issue] will be solely announced by its spokesman and any statements made by people with no responsibility in this regard would be null and void.”
The spokesman added that the tanker was seized upon a Judiciary order after it caused environmental pollution in the Persian Gulf waters, adding that the legal proceedings of the case are still underway.
Therefore, he said, any development regarding the issue depends on the opinion of the respective judicial officials.
On January 4, the IRGC Navy announced the seizure of the tanker HANKUK CHEMI, which had departed from the Petroleum Chemical Quay in Saudi Arabia’s Jubail port, for polluting the Persian Gulf waters with chemicals.
It said the ship, which carried 7,200 tones of ethanol, is at Iran’s southern Bandar Abbas port city, and its crew members, who hail from South Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam and Myanmar, have been detained as well.
The IRGC added that the tanker was seized at the request of Ports and Maritime Department of Hormogzan Province and upon a judicial order by the provincial prosecutor.
Iran rejects claims that the seizure of the ship is related to the issue of Tehran’s frozen funds in South Korea over US sanctions, saying the ship was impounded due to technical reasons that are common.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif reiterated last week that the South Korean-flagged tanker was seized for polluting the Persian Gulf waters, adding, “This is a merely technical issue, which is under investigation within the framework of legal and judicial regulations.”
He made the remarks at a meeting with South Korea’s visiting First Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun on January 11, following a call by the South Korean diplomat for accelerating the settlement of the issue.
It is not possible for the Iranian administration to interfere in the judicial proceedings involving the tanker, Zarif said.
Source: Press TV