Iran says crew of seized Maersk vessel are ‘free’

Iranian officials said that the dispute over a Maersk payment could be resolved in the coming days.

Iran says crew of seized Maersk vessel are 'free'
The seized ship was carrying cargo for Maersk but not owned by the company. Photo: Maersk Line
Iran on Wednesday denied it had detained the crew of the Maersk Tigris cargo vessel it seized in a business dispute last week, saying they were benefitting from diplomatic assistance.
The vessel — chartered by Danish shipping group A.P. Moeller-Maersk and with 24 crew aboard — was seized by Iranian patrol boats on April 28 in the busy Strait of Hormuz.
The seizure caused concern for the security of shipping lanes in the strategic strait and prompted the United States to send vessels to monitor the situation.
Maersk had urged Iran to release the crew, saying it did not own the Marshall Islands-flagged vessel, which was carrying cargo for Maersk under contract, and that crew members were not its employees. 
But Iranian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said Wednesday the crew had never been in detention.
"The 24 members of the ship's crew are free. They are benefiting from consular assistance and from our point of view they are not connected with the seizure of the vessel," she said.
"Negotiations are continuing with the private company that has filed the complaint and with the other party, and it is possible that this case will be resolved in one or two days."
Iranian state TV reported that the crew members were from Bulgaria, Myanmar, Romania and Britain. None of the crew members are Danish.  
Afkham reiterated that the dispute was "a legal case, not a political or military case".
The seizure was in connection with an Iranian court order for Maersk to pay $3.6 million (24 million kroner, 3.2 million euros) in damages to Iranian firm Pars Oil Products Talayieh over cargo that allegedly was not delivered.

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Danish terror trial begins against Iranian separatists

Three leaders of an Iranian Arab separatist group pleaded not guilty to financing and promoting terrorism in Iran with Saudi Arabia's backing, as their trial opened in Denmark on Thursday.

Danish terror trial begins against Iranian separatists
File photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

The three risk 12 years in prison if found guilty.

Aged 39 to 50, the trio are members of the separatist organisation ASMLA (Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz), which is based in Denmark and the Netherlands and which Iran considers a terrorist group.

The three, one of whom is a Danish citizen, have been held in custody in Denmark since February 2020.

Gert Dyrn, lawyer for the eldest of the three, told AFP that in his client’s opinion “what they are charged with is legitimate resistance towards an oppressive regime.”

“They are not denying receiving money from multiple sources, including Saudi Arabia, to help the movement and help them accomplish their political aim,” Dyrn said. 

His client has lived as a refugee in Denmark since 2006. 

According to the charge sheet seen by AFP, the three received around 30 million kroner (four million euros, $4.9 million) for ASMLA and its armed branch, through bank accounts in Austria and the United Arab Emirates.

The trio is also accused of spying on people and organisations in Denmark between 2012 and 2020 for Saudi intelligence.

Finally, they are also accused of promoting terrorism and “encouraging the activities of the terrorist movement Jaish Al-Adl, which has activities in Iran, by supporting them with advice, promotion, and coordinating attacks.”

The case dates back to 2018 when one of the three was the target of a foiled attack on Danish soil believed to be sponsored by the Iranian regime in retaliation for the killing of 24 people in Ahvaz, southwestern Iran, in September 2018.


Tehran formally denied the attack plan in Denmark, but a Danish court last year jailed a Norwegian-Iranian for seven years for his role in the plot. 

That attack put Danish authorities on the trail of the trio’s ASMLA activities.

Sunni Saudi Arabia is the main rival in the Middle East of Shia Iran, and Tehran regularly accuses it, along with Israel and the United States, of supporting separatist groups.

Lawyer Gert Dyrn said this was “the first case in Denmark within terror law where you have to consider who is a terrorist and who is a freedom fighter.”