Ship owners sailing four Iranian fuel cargoes to US for seizure

A handout image released by the US Central Command on August 13, 2020 reportedly shows Iranian forces boarding a tanker in international waters in the Gulf of Oman, just 32 kilometers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, using a helicopter and two ships to take over the vessel for several hours. (AFP)
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Updated 14 August 2020

Ship owners sailing four Iranian fuel cargoes to US for seizure

  • Iran had planned to transport the gasoline to Venezuela, a supply line that both Tehran and Caracas have flaunted in defiance of US sanctions

LONDON/MEXICO CITY: Four tankers carrying Iranian fuel cargoes covered by a US warrant for seizure are sailing to the United States after talks between US authorities and the ship owners, a US government source and a shipping source said on Thursday.
Iran had planned to transport the gasoline to Venezuela, a supply line that both Tehran and Caracas have flaunted in defiance of US sanctions. Washington has imposed sanctions on both countries to choke oil exports and deprive them of their main source of revenue.
Iranian action against another ship on Wednesday in the Gulf was in retaliation against the Greek owner of some of the vessels, the government source and two shipping sources said.
US prosecutors filed a lawsuit in July to seize the gasoline aboard the four tankers, and a judge subsequently issued a warrant for seizure. The fuel cannot be seized until the tankers enter US territorial waters.
The owners of the four vessels agreed to have them sail to the United States after talks with the US government, the sources said. The warrant only covers the cargoes aboard the Liberia-flagged Bella, Bering, Pandi and Luna, not the vessels.
The US Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security and State Department declined to comment on Thursday. Neither Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA nor Venezuela’s oil or information ministries responded to requests for comment.
The United States has previously threatened to impose sanctions on any shipowners and vessels involved in oil trade with Venezuela and Iran.
The four tankers are owned and managed by companies controlled by Greece-based firms Vienna LTD and Palermo SA. The fifth vessel, the Wila, which was boarded by Iranian forces near the Strait of Hormuz on Wednesday, is owned by Bandit Shipping and controlled by Greece-based IMS SA.
Vienna, Palermo and IMS did not immediately reply to requests for comment sent outside normal office hours.
News of the US seizure of the Iranian cargoes was first reported on Thursday by the Wall Street Journal.
Tensions between Iran and the United States increased last year following a series of incidents involving shipping in and near the Middle East Gulf.
In July 2019, Iran briefly seized a British-flagged oil tanker in the Gulf after Britain seized the Iranian tanker Grace 1, accused of violating sanctions on Syria.
The United States had issued a warrant for the vessel and Brian Hook, then the State Department’s top Iran official, sent emails to its captain saying the Trump administration was offering him several million dollars to steer the tanker to a country that would impound it on behalf of Washington. The attempt failed, and the oil was eventually sold to the Assad government in Syria.


Indian court accused of ‘betrayal’ over mosque verdict

Updated 18 min 6 sec ago

Indian court accused of ‘betrayal’ over mosque verdict

  • Senior BJP officials acquitted of conspiracy to destroy historic Muslim place of worship

NEW DELHI: A special court in the northern Indian city of Lucknow on Wednesday acquitted all 32 politicians and senior leaders from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of conspiring to demolish the 16th-century Babri Mosque in 1992, ruling that the move was not “preplanned.”

Muslims described the judgment as “yet another betrayal by the judiciary.”

The BJP under the leadership of then-party president Lal Krishna Advani led a political campaign in the late 1980s and early 1990s to build a temple on the site of the disputed 16th-century mosque in the eastern city of Ayodhya, claiming that it was built by the first Mughal ruler Babar. 

On Dec. 6, 1992, in response to a call by BJP leaders, hundreds of Hindu extremists gathered at the disputed site and demolished the mosque, resulting in religious riots across the country that claimed more than 2,000 lives.

Most of the BJP leaders and its affiliates were blamed for razing the Babri Mosque.

However, on Wednesday, Surendra Kumar Yadav, the judge at the special court, said that the demolition of the 500-year-old mosque was not pre-planned.

“They have been acquitted for lack of evidence,” defense lawyer K.K. Mishra said after the verdict.

Muslims reacted to the verdict with disappointment.

“The judgment pronounced by the special CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) court is wrong. We will appeal in the high court,” Zafaryab Jilani, general secretary of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, said.

The BJP was elated with the court’s decision.

“It is a moment of happiness for all of us; we chanted ‘Jai Shri Ram’ (Hail Ram) after the court’s verdict. The judgment vindicates my personal and BJP’s belief and commitment toward the Ram Janmabhoomi Movement. Along with millions of my countrymen, I now look forward to the completion of the beautiful Shri Ram Mandir (temple) at Ayodhya,” 92-year-old Advani, one of the accused in the case, said.

Another BJP leader and former party president, Murli Manohar Joshi, who was also among the accused, called the judgment “historic.”

“This proves that no conspiracy was hatched for the incident in Ayodhya. Our program and rallies were not part of any conspiracy,” Joshi, 86, said.

The verdict comes 10 months after the Supreme Court’s controversial judgment giving the disputed land to a Hindu trust and awarding five acres of land to Muslim petitioners to build a structure of their choice at another location in the city.

“It’s a betrayal by the court,” Ayodhya-based Hajji Mahboob, one of the original Muslim petitioners, told Arab News.

“So many BJP leaders have claimed openly that they were involved in demolishing the Babri Mosque. If the court gives this kind of one-sided verdict, I can only say that it is compromised,” he said.

“We know that there cannot be any justice for Muslims in this country because all the decisions given by the courts are wrong,” he added.

Reacting to the verdict, the main opposition Congress party said it was “counter to the Supreme Court judgment.” 

The apex court held that the demolition of the Babri mosque was clearly illegal and an “egregious violation of the rule of law.” 

“But the Special Court exonerated all the accused. It is clear that the decision of the Special Court runs counter to the decision of the Supreme Court,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said.

The demolition of the mosque was “a deep-rooted political conspiracy to destroy the country’s communal amity and brotherhood, and to usurp power at any cost,” he added.

According to Hilal Ahamd, of New Delhi-based think tank Center for the Study of Developing Societies, there is a growing belief among Muslims that India is a Hindu country and “they have to adjust themselves accordingly.”

Meanwhile, former chairman of the minority commission Zafar ul Islam Khan said the verdict will encourage the BJP to take the law into its own hands in the belief that the police and judiciary will protect them.

Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a New Delhi political analyst who has written several books on the Hindu right-wing politics, said: “The demolition of the mosque was a criminal offense and the failure to establish guilt after 28 years is unfortunate.”

He described the verdict as “a betrayal for Muslims and risky for the security of the country if its largest minority keeps getting marginalized like this.”