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U.K. sailors say they were placed under pressure by Iranians

RIA Novosti

06/04/2007 21:56

LONDON, April 6 (RIA Novosti) - British sailors and marines released from Iranian captivity Wednesday insisted Friday they had been detained in Iraqi territorial waters, saying they had been put under "constant psychological pressure."

Iran detained 15 British Navy personnel in the Gulf March 23 for allegedly violating its maritime border with Iraq. Britain has insisted the servicemen were in Iraqi waters under a UN mandate. But while the servicemen were in Iranian custody, local TV showed some of them apologizing for having illegally entered Iranian territorial waters.

One of the former captives said they had been offered two options: admit to violating Iranian waters and be forgiven or face seven years in prison.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called the release of the Navy personnel "a gift" to the British nation.

The servicemen said that during their detention two weeks ago, they were blindfolded, bound, and kept in isolation in small cells. Although Iranian television showed the sailors having lunch together, it was described as a 'PR stunt' by one of the former captives.

The sailors and marines told journalists they had not resisted the captors as they realized it was senseless, and that they did not want to provoke an international crisis. They said they feared "the worst" when placed against a wall blindfolded and they heard the sound of weapons being cocked.

The servicemen said it would have been impossible to win a battle in that situation and that was why they decided to do what they were told to.

Iranian television said Friday the press conference with the released British sailors was staged by the U.K. Cabinet, adding that six out of the 15 read their statements from notes whose content had been dictated to them by the U.K. authorities.

"[Royal Marine Captain] Chris Air, who in Tehran admitted to have illegally entered Iran's territorial waters, said the opposite at the press conference," the TV said.

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