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Last Updated:  Monday, 24 March, 2003, 09:33 GMT
Former PoW's pity for captives
A captured American servicewoman
Images were screened of a captured US servicewoman
An RAF navigator shot down and tortured during the 1991 Gulf War has told of his pity for the captured American soldiers paraded on Iraqi television.

John Nichol knows first hand what it was like to be forced to appear on television after falling into enemy hands.

Pictures of him and his pilot John Peters were shown on Iraqi TV and seen across the world 12 years ago.

Over the weekend he saw the footage shown on Arabic TV station al-Jazeera of interviews with five captured survivors of an ambush and pictures of the bodies of several American soldiers.

The decision to show the footage has been roundly condemned by the US and UK Governments as a flagrant contravention of the Geneva Convention on how prisoners of war should be treated.

John Nichol's TV appearance
Going on television was a humiliating, degrading, disgusting, despicable experience - I did it under the threat of death
John Nichol

Mr Nichol told the BBC the "horrific images" of "pure and abject fear" on the face of the female captive brought back painful memories of his own ordeal as a prisoner of war.

Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live, he said: "You go off to war thinking you are a proud, perhaps arrogant, officer going off to do what you think is the right thing.

"Suddenly within a few hours you are taken out of your environment of being an officer, of being a soldier, and suddenly you are in the hands of the enemy.

"It is a just a brutal, terrifying, horrific experience."

He said it should never be forgotten the families of the soldiers would be watching every media report.

"War isn't about cruise missiles and laser guided bombs.

"It is about real people who are risking their lives and tragically giving them."

Mr Nichol's Tornado went down after being struck by a heat-seeking missile above the Iraqi desert in January 1991.

'No choice'

He drew comfort from his own television appearance because he knew that at least his family would know he was still alive.

But he cautioned that there could now be a period where little information was gained about the welfare of the captives.

"Going on television was a humiliating, degrading, disgusting, despicable experience. I did it under the threat of death," he said.

"It wasn't a difficult choice to make in those circumstances."

But he had no idea then that those images would be beamed across the world.

Iraq's Foreign Minister Naji Sabri told the BBC that Iraq would not harm the prisoners.

But for relatives of the servicemen and servicewoman this will bring little comfort, said Mr Nichols.

"It must have been a horrific terrifying experience for the people there and their loved ones watching back home."




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