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Stena Impero, a British-flagged vessel owned by Stena Bulk, is seen at undisclosed place off the coast of Bandar Abbas, Iran August 22, 2019. Image Credit: VIA REUTERS

Dubai: The Iranian authorities released on humanitarian grounds seven of the 23 crew members on a detained British-flagged oil tanker on Wednesday.

Iran impounded the Stena Impero vessel on July 19 in the Strait of Hormuz for allegedly breaking international maritime rules, causing tensions with Britain as it made a proposal for naval missions to escort ships in the Arabian Gulf.

The sailors — five Indians, one Latvian and one Russian — had already left the Stena Impero, the BBC quoted a foreign ministry spokesman as saying.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said the ship’s captain had selected seven members of its crew to be released.

He did not say what would happen to the remaining 13 Indian, two Russian and one Filipino crew members.

The UK has said Iran had no right to obstruct the vessel’s passage and accused it of an “act of state piracy”.

The Stena Impero’s seizure came after the British Royal Navy patrol vessel guards on July 4 stopped the Iranian oil supertanker Grace 1 off the coast of Gibraltar on suspicion of carrying oil to Syria, a country subject to European Union sanctions.

The Iranian tanker was freed on August 15 by order of a court in Gibraltar, a British overseas territory on the southern tip of Spain, after Iran provided assurances that the tanker’s cargo would not be taken to Syria.