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British Detainees Give Details Of Iranian Ordeal

From the UK’s Financial Times:

Detainees speak of Iranian ordeal

By Christopher Adams in London

April 6 2007

Fifteen British sailors and marines released after 13 days detained in Iran said on Friday that they were blindfolded, bound, subjected to aggressive interrogation and threatened with seven years in jail during their captivity.

In a prepared statement at a press conference at the Royal Marine base at Chivenor in Devon where they are being debriefed, the naval personnel said they “would have faced a major fight” with Iranian forces had they resisted a deliberate attempt in Iraqi waters to detain them.

The Iranian forces became “aggressive and unstable”, rammed their boats and trained rocket propelled grenades and other weapons at the British boats, the sailors said.

“When we tried to leave they prevented us by blocking us in,” said Royal Navy Lieutenant Felix Carman, who confirmed that the British were 1.7 nautical miles within Iraqi waters on a “routine boarding operation” when they were detained.

“Efforts to reason [with the Iranians] did not make headway,” he said. “We could not calm them down.”

“We realised that, had we resisted, we would have faced a major fight … we made a conscious decision not to engage the Iranians. They boarded our boats, removed our weapons and took us to shore.”

The account of their treatment conflicts with that given by Tehran before their release on Wednesday. Iran claims the personnel were seized after their vessels crossed into Iranian territorial waters.

On arrival at an Iranian military base, the sailors, who included Royal Marines, were blindfolded, stripped of their equipment and removed to a room, said Lt Carman.

Two hours later, they were moved to a second location and “throughout the night subjected to interrogation”.

“The questioning was aggressive, the handling rough, but no worse than that.” They were later moved to Tehran, where they were blindfolded, had their hands bound and were “forced up against a wall”.

“Throughout our ordeal, we faced constant ideological pressure,” said Lt Carman. The Britons were kept in cells eight feet (2.5 metres) long by six feet wide and in isolation. They were interrogated most nights.

Lt Carman said that they were presented with “few options”. They were told that if they admitted to straying into Iranian waters, they would be freed, but warned they could spend up to seven years in Iran if they did not.

Another sailor said of the experience: “It was mainly psychological and emotional. Isolation was a major part of this. None of the guards spoke … We were blindfolded and kept in isolation from each other.”

“We were put up against the wall, hands bound and blindfolded. People were cocking their weapons in the background.”

One of the crewmen described their appearances on Iranian television, in which they were shown apparently admitting they had strayed into Iranian waters, as “a complete media stunt”.

On the twelfth day of their captivity, they were taken to the presidential palace in Tehran where they listened to a speech given by Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, Iran’s president.

It was then that they were given the grey three-piece suits they were wearing when released. Joe Tindell, one of the Royal Marines, told British broadcasters that they did not see their guards in the first six days of their captivity, being blindfolded whenever they left their cells to go to the toilet.

“Everyone went on TV, did a TV interview and said, according to the GPS map we were given, which was obviously fabricated … we were in Iranian waters.”

He said he had felt genuinely scared during the experience, but that the sailors had whispered morale-boosting messages to each other from their respective cells.

This is pretty much what everyone expected had happened.

Their biggest mistake was probably not resisting capture at the start. Like most pirates, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard are mostly full of bluff.

Still, it’s easy to Monday morning quarterback.

This article was posted by Steve on Friday, April 6th, 2007. Comments are currently closed.

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