(Agencies) The incident that sparked a top-level row between Spain, Britain and Gibraltar is 'over', according to Spanish authorities. Four Guardia Civil officers were in hot pursuit of an alleged drug smuggling Zodiac-type boat set foot on the Rock last Monday and were detained by the Royal Gibraltar Police for some hours, their arms and boat confiscated. These last were handed back a couple of days later. The alleged smugglers, from Pontevedra in Galicia and supposedly with a track record for smuggling there, were handed over to Spanish authorities yesterday after appearing in court in Gibraltar and fined €5000 each for illegally importing a vessel as no drugs were found aboard their boat; they are now 'at the disposal of justice' in Spain, accused of 'obstruction of justice'. In the meantime,>
the matter has caused much vexation on either side of the frontier.
The Guardia Civil agents involved have given their version of the incident to their senior officers in Algeciras and an investigation has been opened. They will probably face disciplinary measures. Their union, however, has expressed its concern, saying, among other things, that 'sometimes you don't know exactly where you are when in pursuit at sea'.
For his part, the Commander of British Forces in Gibraltar, Commodore Adrian Bell, has said that if the incident had taken place at the naval base instead of at Harbour Views, "the personnel is armed and authorized to shoot at objectives considered hostile, something that might well have happened." He was pleased that it didn't. He also announced that the MoD will analyze the matter to see if the response procedures on the Rock are "correct and effective."
Spain's Minister of the Interior, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, announced yesterday that the matter was "solved", while the President's Councillor for Andalucía expressed the regional government's support regarding possible conflicts with Gibraltar.
Other politicians in Spain offered similar support, although the Opposition party, Partido Popular, has made hay of this and other recent incidents involving the disputed waters around the Rock.