A Greek appeals court overturned on Wednesday an earlier court ruling that allowed the confiscation by the United States of part of a cargo of Iranian oil on an Iranian-flagged tanker off the Greek coast, reported Reuters citing sources familiar with the case.
Greece’s part in the piracy led to an angry response from Tehran, with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps last month seizing two Greek tankers in the Persian Gulf after “punitive action” against Athens was promised.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters that a Greek court overturned the earlier decision that greenlighted the capture of Iranian energy.
Iran had also appealed the original court decision, one legal source said, declining to be named.
“The action for the reversal of the ruling was accepted by the court,” the source said. “It will be hard to overrule that (the appeal court’s ruling).”
It was not immediately clear if the U.S. or Greek governments would challenge the ruling, which was given in the Appeals court of the region of Chalkis.
The result of the appeal has not yet been made public.
Greece had called Iran’s seizure of the two Greek tankers in the Gulf “piracy”.
The case arose when Greek authorities in April impounded the Iranian-flagged Lana, formerly Pegas, with 19 Russian crew members on board, near the coast of the southern island of Evia due to European Union sanctions.
The ship was soon released due to complications regarding its ownership. The United States in May confiscated part of the Iranian oil cargo held onboard and transferred it to another ship, following the initial Greek court ruling.
In a separate case, Greek authorities later seized Lana again, acting on an interim court order over alleged debts to another shipping company, represented by lawyer George Kozanidis.
Kozanidis declined to disclose the name of the company he represents but told Reuters that the case is related to unpaid towing services.
According to the ruling, the confiscated quantity of 107,000 tons of Iranian oil must now be returned and the ship must leave.
“The seizure has been overturned, the confiscation has been canceled and therefore things should return to the previous state,” legal representative of the owner company, Panagiotis Chiotelis, told Proto Thema.
Thus, the quantity transferred to the US Energy tanker Ice Energy will have to be returned to Lana’s tanks.
It should be reminded that, by order of the investigator of Chalkida, it was ordered not to remove the ship from the port of Karystos and to carry out all the “necessary” actions for the investigative actions requested by the US, which requested the confiscation of the oil and its transfusion.
Two days ago, the Iranian ambassador to Athens, Ahmad Naderi, also visited the tanker that remains off Karystos. The visit of the Iranian ambassador to the tanker LANA (formerly Pegas) took place at the request of the Iranian government, which received the relevant approval.
The new judicial development is very likely to de-escalate the tension that was created by Athens with Tehran and thus lead to the release of the two Greek tankers, which remain hostage.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei acknowledged on Saturday that Iran took two Greek oil tankers last month in helicopter-launched raids in the Persian Gulf.
The confiscations were retaliation for Greece’s role in the US seizure of crude oil from an Iranian-flagged tanker the same week in the Mediterranean Sea over violating Washington’s harsh sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
“They steal Iranian oil off the Greek coast, then our brave men who don’t fear death respond and seized the enemy’s oil tanker,” Khamenei said during an 80-minute speech on the anniversary of the death of the late founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
“But they use their media empire and extensive propaganda to accuse Iran of piracy,” he continued. “Who is the pirate? You stole our oil, we took it back from you. Taking back a stolen property is not called stealing.”
The seizures ratcheted up tensions between Iran and the West already simmering over Iran’s tattered 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
Tehran has been enriching more uranium, closer to weapons-grade levels than ever before, causing concern that negotiators won’t find a way back to the accord and raising the risk of a wider war.
Greece has condemned Tehran’s detention of the two ships as “tantamount to acts of piracy” and warned its citizens not to travel to Iran.
The German and French foreign ministries, in separate statements, condemned the seizure as a violation of international law, and called on Iran to immediately release the ships and their crews.
The United States has also strongly condemned Iran’s seizure of the two tankers, and demanded their immediate release.
Iran has called the statements “one-sided” and “inappropriate interference.”
Tehran noted that France and Germany “are protesting against the legal measures taken in Iran” while “remaining silent” on Greece’s own seizure of the tanker, which it said was Iranian.