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Claims of ‘excessive force’ during detention Grace 1, rejected by Gib Govt

Pic: Johny Bugeja

The Gibraltar Government’s evidence on Grace 1 ‘entirely contradicts’ statements made by its captain yesterday, who told press the Royal Marines had used ‘excessive force’ in detaining his ship.
The captain yesterday told the BBC he was in a “state of shock” when the armed marines detained the vessel.
He added he had “followed company procedures” and was not aware about the EU sanctions against Syria.
Grace 1 continues to be detained in Gibraltar, with the Gibraltar Supreme Court recently extending the detention order to August 15.
“Apart from the operational issues which are for the police, the evidence we have entirely contradicts the statements by the Captain, in particular in relation to accessing Baniyas refinery,” the government said in statement.
“We will make a fuller statement in due course setting out why the evidence now points even more clearly to the destination having been Baniyas.”
“That statement will also - at the appropriate time - address all of the other misinformation which has been circulated by various sources.”
The supertanker was detained earlier this month on suspicion the tanker was carrying oil to a Syrian refinery in breach of EU sanctions.
The captain yesterday told the BBC marines made his unarmed crew kneel on the deck at gunpoint.
But these statements have been rejected by the Royal Gibraltar Police who said “minimum force” was used to take control of Grace 1.
“The matter is currently under investigation and it would not be appropriate to comment on the evidence secured so far, save to say that the intervention by the military was in support of the RGP, applying the minimum use of force maxim to ensure police officers were able to safely and securely board the vessel, deal with the crew and take control of the vessel,” an RGP spokesman said.
“Furthermore, all the crew with the exception of the vessel's top four senior officers have been interviewed as witnesses with the assistance of interpreters where these services were required.
“The four senior officers were interviewed under caution with all their legal and consular entitlements safeguarded. In any event, there is no question of any person's statement being altered without their knowledge or consent.”
Earlier this month about 30 marines, from 42 Commando, were flown from the UK to Gibraltar to help detain the tanker and its cargo, at the request of the Gibraltar government.
The vessel's captain, an Indian national who asked not to be named, said he was radioed a police request to board his ship and had lowered his ladder.
He described how a military helicopter landed on the ship in "a very dangerous move”.
“They didn't care whether I was master… there was no regulations… we had 28 unarmed crew,” the captain said in a radio interview yesterday morning.
“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?"
The captain has been advised by Indian High Commission officials to remain anonymous.