Friday, April 6, 2007
Gee, didn't see this coming...
06/04/07 - News section
Blindfolded Britons tell of the moment the guards' guns clicked
By TOM KELLY
* We were blindfolded and subjected to interrogation
* We were told we faced seven years in prison if we did not 'confess'
* Iranians entered Iraqi waters deliberately to detain us. Fighting back was not an option
* We were 1.7 nautical miles away from Iranian waters
* We were under psychological pressure and mind games
* Faye Turney was isolated in a cell away from the rest of the crew
* Iranian state TV says crew's comments were 'dictated' by British Ministry of Defence
All 15 of them had been blindfolded, handcuffed and pushed against a wall by their Iranian captors.
Then they heard the sound of guns being cocked - and believed they were about to be shot by firing squad.
The most terrifying moment of the British hostages' 13 days in captivity was revealed yesterday as seven of them faced a press conference.
The mock execution happened the day after the Navy sailors and Royal Marines had been seized while patrolling at the mouth of the Shatt al-Arab waterway, which divides Iran and Iraq.
Lieutenant Felix Carman, 26, of Swansea, said that on their first night in captivity their treatment was not too bad.
But the following morning they were flown to Tehran where the "atmosphere changed completely", he said. "We were blindfolded, our hands were bound and we were forced up against a wall."
All 15 prisoners, including young mother Faye Turney, heard the Revolutionary Guard cock their guns.
One of the hostages screamed out: "Lads, lads, we're going to be executed - do something."
Another was physically sick, said 21-year-old Royal Marine Joe Tindell, who believed he was hearing the sound of a colleague having his throat cut.
"I assumed we were all going to be executed. We were all standing there waiting for it to happen.
"I just thought that was the end of it. It was the only time in my life I really felt scared.
"From there we were rushed into a room and then stuffed into a cell and didn't see another human being for six days."
The men said the hostages were subjected to "constant psychological pressure" which Lt Carman described as amounting to "torture". While it stopped short of physical abuse, it helps explain their apparent willingness to appear in Iranian propaganda broadcasts before their release on Thursday.
Their captors said the choice was clear - admit they had strayed into Iranian waters or face seven years in a Tehran jail.
Leading Seaman Turney, a 26-year-old mother, was not present at the press conference at the Royal Marines Base at Chivenor, north Devon.
But her fellow prisoners described how she was put in solitary confinement and, for four days, told by her jailers that the rest of the group had been sent home and she was the only captive left in Iran.
The moment when the hostage drama began was described by Royal Marine Captain Chris Air, 25, from Altrincham, Cheshire.
He described how the British troops spotted two Iranian speedboats approaching. He explained to an officer on one of the boats that they were conducting a routine patrol but when they tried to leave they were blocked in.
"Some of the Iranian sailors were becoming deliberately aggressive and unstable.
"They rammed our boat and trained their heavy machine guns and weapons on us. Another six boats were closing in on us."
He said fighting back was "simply not an option - had we chosen to do so then many of us would not be standing here today.
"The Iranian Navy did not turn up lightly armed. They came with intent, heavy weapons, and very quickly surrounded us. We were not prepared to fight a heavily armed force who it is our impression came out deliberately into Iraqi waters to take us prisoner."
After their mock execution ordeal, the prisoners were for six days kept in solitary confinement in stone cells, sleeping on piles of blankets.
The group defended themselves from mounting criticism that they should not have allowed themselves to be paraded on Tehran television and make "confessions" that they had strayed into Iranian waters.
Lt Carman said: "At no time did we apologise." He said that they always qualified their statements when interviewed, saying things like "according to the information you have presented to us". It appears these qualifiers were edited out of the versions broadcast.
The head of the Navy, First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Jonathon Band, strongly defended the conduct of the hostages saying they behaved with "considerable dignity and a lot of courage".
He added: "They appear to have played it by the rules. They don't appear to have given anything away.
"I think you will find out that they were actually a brave set of young people.
"I think, in the end, they were a credit to us, the way they dealt with the situation when they were said goodbye to by the president."
He said accusations that they "surrendered first and apologised later" were "extremely unfair", adding: "I would not agree at all that it was not our finest hour. I stand by what they did."
The admiral dismissed suggestions that the hostages should have restricted themselves to merely telling the Iranians their name, rank and serial number. "They weren't on combat operations. They weren't like people shot down in Tornados in the Gulf War."
Find this story at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=447110&in_page_id=1770