Iran frees seven crew from Portuguese ship seized in Gulf

AFP , Thursday 9 May 2024

Iran on Thursday freed seven of the 25 crew on a Portuguese-flagged ship seized in the Gulf on April 13, Portugal's foreign ministry said.

The Portuguese parliament is pictured with a flag at the forefront, in Lisbon on February 20, 2024. AFP


Five Indians, a Filipino and an Estonian from the MSC Aries "have been freed today", the ministry said in a statement. Another Indian crew member had already been released.

Portugal welcomed the action but demanded the "immediate release" of the remaining 17 crew and the MSC Aries, which was seized near the Strait of Hormuz amid mounting tensions between Iran and Israel.

Iran said the container ship had Israeli links when it was taken, in parallel to Iranian forces launching a mass drone retaliatory attack against Israel.

That unprecedented attack was in retaliation a deadly Israeli strike against an Iranian diplomatic building in Damascus in which seven Iranian military officers were killed.

Iran accused the ship's owners of having links to Israel. "It is certain that this ship belongs to the Zionist regime," an Iranian foreign ministry spokesman said at the time.

Portugal summoned Iran's ambassador on April 16 to demand the release of the vessel and its crew. Iran announced on April 27 that it was considering freeing more crew members.

Foreign ministers from the two countries spoke by telephone 10 days ago.

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