Gibraltar police protest 'aggression' by Spanish officers

28th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Gibraltar police accused their Spanish counterparts of "physical aggression" during an incident at sea on Tuesday in which officers from the British territory were trying to arrest a suspect.

It was the latest of several face-offs between British and Spanish forces in the waters around Gibraltar since last year that have stoked tensions between the two nations over the contested promontory off Spain's southern tip.

The Royal Gibraltar Police (RGP) said the incident took place in British territorial waters.

But police sources quoted by Spanish media said it was in Spanish waters, and said a patrol boat of Spain's Civil Guard police force was intercepted and "harassed" by Gibraltar police as it was pursuing a suspected drug trafficker.

There was no immediate official reaction from the Spain's Civil Guard or government.

The RGP said in a statement that one its patrol boats had chased an inflatable boat after its driver refused requests to stop.

Gibraltar officers boarded the boat but the person on board, a 35-year-old Spanish national, resisted arrest.

"Armed Civil Guard officers then boarded the (inflatable) and claimed jurisdiction of the detained person and vessel, refusing (to allow) the RGP to take either of them away," it said.

"A very tense situation developed with physical aggression being displayed by the Civil Guard officers towards the RGP officers, physically impeding and manhandling the RGP officers preventing them from effecting the arrest and taking control of the vessel and the arrested individual."

It said the Gibraltar police then towed away the arrested vessel and its occupant but were "physically impeded by one of the Civil Guard vessels which rammed the" inflatable boat and seized the suspect.

In an incident last December, Gibraltar police detained four members of Spain's Civil Guard police force who had chased two suspected drug smugglers into the territorial waters of the disputed promontory off Spain's southern tip.

Britain claims a strip measuring three nautical miles (5.5 kilometres) surrounding Gibraltar as their territorial waters.

But Spain does not recognise any waters off Gibraltar as belonging to the tiny British territory, apart from its ports.

Gibraltar, which Spain ceded to Britain in 1713 under the Treaty of Utrecht, has long fuelled tensions between the two countries.

Madrid argues the 6.5-square-kilometre (2.6-square-mile) territory that is home to roughly 30,000 people should be returned to Spanish sovereignty.

But its people overwhelmingly rejected an Anglo-Spanish proposal for co-sovereignty in a referendum in 2002.

© 2010 AFP

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