Iran’s foreign ministry said Tuesday the sailors from a South Korean tanker seized in the Persian Gulf by Iranian troops last month are free to leave the country, state TV reported.
Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said a legal investigation into the tanker and its captain would continue. Iran maintains the tanker and its 20-member crew were stopped because of the vessel’s “environmental pollution,” a claim rejected by the vessel’s owner.
The crew, including sailors from Indonesia, Myanmar, South Korea and Vietnam, were in custody at the port city of Bandar Abbas near the Strait of Hormuz.
Images released by #Iran|ian media Tasnim News of the South Korean Vessel HANKUK CHEMI being escorted back to an Iranian Port by #IRGC Navy after being seized due to "polluting the Persian Gulf" pic.twitter.com/4tDwhsfVjw— Aurora Intel (@AuroraIntel) January 4, 2021
South Korean First Vice Foreign Minister and his delegation visited Tehran last month to discuss the release of the ship and crew and some $7 billion in assets of Iran tied up in the country’s banks due to American sanctions.
Iran’s foreign minister had told the visiting South Korean delegation that the release of its vessel and crew was a matter for the courts and out of the government’s hands.