Tehran: Iran said on Tuesday that it had allowed about 20 South Korean tanker crew members detained a month ago on suspicion of pollution to leave the country as a “humanitarian action.”
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized the Hankuk Chemi and arrested its multinational crew near the strategic Strait of Hormuz on January 4, saying it had polluted the waters.
The development came as Tehran urged Seoul to released billions of dollars of Iranian assets frozen in South Korea due to US sanctions. “In a humanitarian move by Iran, the crew of the South Korean tanker accused of polluting the environment of the Persian Gulf were allowed to leave the country,” foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said in a statement.
The permission for them to leave had been granted upon “the request of the South Korean government and (with) the cooperation of the judiciary in Iran”, he added. He did not specify whether the crew had already left.
The case of the tanker and its captain were still being reviewed, he added, without elaborating. The arrested crew were from South Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Myanmar.
Former US President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from the landmark nuclear agreement with world powers in 2018, and then imposed and strengthened brutal sanctions on Iran.
Iran has been a major oil supplier to resource-poor South Korea until Washington’s regulations prevented purchases. According to government spokesman Ali Rabiei, Iran has blocked $7 billion in funding in Seoul. He said that the money can neither be transferred nor earn interest, but Iran has to pay for it. Iran has denied on various occasions that the seizure is related to the funds.