Sat, Apr 07, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Seized UK forces tell of jail threats and isolation

AGENCIES , ROYAL MARINE BASE CHIVENOR, ENGLAND

The 15 British sailors and marines seized by Iran in the Gulf said they were blindfolded, bound, kept in isolation and warned they faced up to seven years in jail.

"We were blindfolded at all times and kept in isolation from each other," Lieutenant Felix Carman said.

In an agreed statement, the military personnel said they were told that if they did not admit they had strayed into Iranian waters, they faced seven years in prison.

"We were interrogated most nights and given two options. If we admitted that we had strayed, we would be back on a plane to the UK pretty soon. If we didn't, we faced up to seven years in prison," they said.

They heard weapons being cocked behind them and feared the worst.

After their arrest in the Gulf, the sailors and marines were taken to a prison in Tehran.

"We were blindfolded, our hands were bound, we were forced up against a wall," they said in their statement.

They insisted they had been arrested in Iraqi waters and that in captivity they suffered "constant psychological pressure."

The sole woman among the group, Faye Turney, was kept isolated for several days and told by her captors that the others had been released and gone home.

The group said they were "incredibly proud" of Turney, 26, and the "highly professional" way she conducted herself throughout their 13-day detention.

"The fact that she's a woman has been used as a propaganda tool by Iran. This is deeply regrettable," they said.

The crew made a conscious decision not to engage the Iranian Revolutionary Guard who took them captive, they said.

Marine Captain Chris Air said they faced an aggressive Iranian crew.

"They rammed our boats, and trained their heavy machine guns, RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades], and weapons on us. Another six boats were closing in on us. We realized our efforts to reason with these people were not making any headway, nor were we able to calm some of the individuals," Air said.

"We realized that had we resisted there would have been a major fight, one we could not have won and with consequences [of] major strategic impacts. We made a conscious decision not to engage the Iranians and do as they asked."

The sailors and marines were released in Tehran on Thursday after a tense 13-day stand off and flown back to Britain for an emotional reunion with their families.

Britain has suspended boarding operations in the Gulf and is reviewing rules of engagement in the area's waters after their seizure, navy chief Jonathan Band said.

He said British forces were reviewing how they are handled in future amid disquiet over how easily the sailors were seized on March 23.

"As part of this ongoing review, the operational procedures and the rules of engagement that go with them will be reconsidered," he told BBC Radio.

Iran still holds the only two boats used to carry out the search operations in the area.

Iran said they had strayed into its territory but Britain said they were in Iraqi waters on a regular UN mission.

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