Gibraltar holds four Spanish police for questioning

8th December 2009, Comments 0 comments

The police officers say they mistakenly entered Gibraltar territorial waters while pursuing two suspected smugglers.

Madrid – Authorities in Gibraltar briefly held four Spanish police on Monday after they pursued two suspected smugglers into the contested British territory on Spain's southern tip, reports and police said.

The four "mistakenly entered Gibraltar territorial waters in hot pursuit and have since apologised for their actions. The four Spanish officers have been released pending further enquiries," Gibraltarian police said in a statement.

Gibraltar police retained the Spanish officers' firearms, it added.

The four were released after being questioned for nearly two hours and only after Spain's Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba discussed the incident with Gibraltar's Chief Minister Peter Caruana, Spanish daily El Pais said on its website.

They were detained by Gibraltarian police after they landed near the territory's port along with the two suspected smugglers, who are Spanish nationals, it added.

Last month Britain apologised to Spain after a Royal Navy ship shot at a buoy bearing the colours of the Spanish flag during a military exercise some five nautical miles off Gibraltar.

Spanish media have reported that confrontations between the Royal Navy and Spain's Civil Guard police force have been on the rise for several months in the waters around Gibraltar.

Spain does not recognise any waters off Gibraltar as belonging to the British territory, apart from the territory's ports.

Madrid points to the wording of the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht -- under which Gibraltar was given up -- which says the "rock" was ceded to England forever.

But London claims sovereignty over a strip of water measuring three nautical miles surrounding the territory, as it does with any other territory.

Gibraltar has long fuelled tensions between Spain and Britain, with Madrid arguing it should be returned to Spanish sovereignty.

London has said it will not renounce sovereignty of the territory against the wishes of Gibraltarians.

AFP / Expatica

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