Sailors "exploited" in Iran ordeal

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The 15 British military personnel captured by Iran have claimed they were interrogated and threatened with "extremely nerve-wracking" psychological pressure.

Speaking at a press conference at the Royal Marines base in Chivenor, Devon, seven of the 15 personnel revealed in detail the circumstances surrounding their 14-day "ordeal".

After being captured by units of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRG), Captain Christopher Air of the Royal Marines and Lieutenant Felix Carman of the Royal Navy described how they were subjected to "aggressive" questioning and "rough" handling.

They were blindfolded, "forced up against a wall" with their hands bound behind their backs and could hear weapons being cocked behind them.

"Some of us feared the worst," Lt Carman said, although he denied that any mock executions had taken place.

After being transferred to a Tehran prison the crew were kept in solitary confinement in cells measuring six by eight feet, with only two blankets separating them from the floor, for the next six days.

They were interrogated every night, blindfolded every time they left their cell to go to the toilet and were presented with two options: either confess to transgressing into Iranian territorial waters or face up to seven years in jail.

"People in solitary confinement heard that others were getting special privileges," Adam Sperry said, explaining the methods he claimed were used by the Iranians to convince them to comply. "We were in a bubble so we didn't know what was happening," he added.

Even when the crew were let out to spend time together they were only permitted to do so "in the full glare of the Iranian media".

It was only then that they learned of the fate of Acting Leading Seaman Faye Turney, the only female member of the personnel. Capt Air said she had been separated from the other prisoners and was "under the impression for about four days that she was the only one there, so clearly she had subjected to quite a lot of stress that we fortunately didn't know about".

"She coped admirably and retained a lot of dignity and has maintained that throughout. Like all of us, she's been exploited," he added.

Capt Air and Lt Carman defended their decision to not fight back when IRG forces surrounded their vessel.

"Let me be absolutely clear: from the outset it was very apparent that fighting back was simply not an option," Capt Air said.

"Had we chosen to do so, many of us would not be standing here today. Of that I have no doubt."

Lt Carman reiterated the Ministry of Defence's claims that his vessel was 1.7 nautical miles within Iraqi territorial waters, adding that the position of the rigid inflatable boat (Rib) was being separately verified by a Royal Navy helicopter and HMS Cornwall at the time.

"Irrespective of what's been said in the past, when we were detained by the Rib we were inside internationally recognised Iraqi territorial waters," he said.

Meanwhile, Marine Joe Tindell made his feelings towards his captors clear in his contribution to the press conference.

"As far as I'm concerned the whole thing was a complete media stunt," he said. "I'm not their biggest fan, put it that way."

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