A Tel Aviv-based civil rights group warned on Wednesday that British satellite operator Inmarsat could face criminal prosecution if it continued providing its technology to Iranian oil tankers.

In a letter to Inmarsat, Shurat HaDin (Israel Law Center) said the company could risk civil as well as criminal proceedings in US courts if it did not stop supplying its guidance services to Iranian military vessels and tankers.

Shurat HaDin director and civil rights activist Nitsana Darshan- Leitner said the warning letter came in the wake of recent US Treasury Department sanctions against Iranian vessels.

The sanctions, imposed earlier this month, identify 58 National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) vessels by name. The Treasury Department said that identifying the vessels would help companies and individuals comply with sanctions against Iran and undermine Iranian attempts to use NITC front companies to evade sanctions.

Twenty-eight of the vessels that the department named appear on Inmarsat’s shipping directory as being in receipt of the company’s services.

Ahead of EU oil sanctions, NITC “reflagged,” or registered in other countries, a large number of its vessels to mask their ownership and so evade sanctions. Many of the ships on the Treasury Department’s list have been reflagged in countries including Tuvalu in the South Pacific. However, Shurat HaDin said that this did not affect their legal liability under US sanctions, because the ships were either under Iranian control or primarily dedicated to supporting Iran.

According to Jane’s Intelligence Weekly, the Telecommunications Company of Iran (TCI) is the Islamic Republic’s national signatory to Inmarsat. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have effectively taken over TCI since the Mobin Trust Consortium, a company that the Guards partially own, won a 2009 tender.

Meanwhile, other documents available on Inmarsat’s website list TCI as a Point of Service Activation – the company’s term for an entity that has concluded a contract with Inmarsat for its C or Mini C satellite system, which vessels use for two-way communication.

In its letter to Inmarsat, Shurat HaDin said that providing aid to Iran was illegal.

By materially supporting Iran’s oil industry, the organization alleged, Inmarsat was facilitating the Iranian regime, including its nuclear program.

“To the extent that Inmarsat’s satellite support is utilized by Iran’s military agencies, Inmarsat is a direct participator in Iran’s terrorist activities and nuclear weapons program,” the letter read.

Shurat HaDin cited a recent ruling by the US Supreme Court in the Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project case, which held that providing any support to a terrorist organization, even for supposed humanitarian purposes, was sufficient to impose criminal liability.

“The analysis in Holder is no less accurate or binding when applied to the business activities of a sophisticated sovereign entity that orchestrates terrorist operations globally,” the rights group argued in its letter.

Darshan-Leitner said on Wednesday that the organization would not tolerate Inmarsat’s “profiting from the blood of innocent people.”

“Anything short of immediate and decisive action on our part would be akin to acceptance,” she said.

She called on Inmarsat to uphold its legal obligations in compliance with US Treasury regulations and immediately cease its support for Iran.

“It is a simple issue of justice,” she added.

Inmarsat did not respond by press time to a Jerusalem Post request for comment.

Shurat HaDin’s warning comes as other groups have also stepped up campaigns against Iran’s shipping industry.

Click here for full Jpost coverage of the Iranian threat

On Tuesday, US-based group United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) called on Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to end his country’s provision of sovereign insurance guarantees for companies shipping Iranian oil.

According to UANI, last week, Japanese crude carrier Ryuho Maru loaded 1.7 million barrels of Iranian crude on behalf of two companies, JX Nippon Oil and Energy Corp and Idemitsu Kosan Co.

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