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Last Updated: Friday, 6 April 2007, 18:04 GMT 19:04 UK
Royal Navy captives: Key quotes
The released navy crew at the press conference
The crew members described being "blindfolded" by the Iranians
Some of the 15 Royal Navy crew members held by Iran after being captured in the Gulf have spoken of their treatment and emotions.

Royal Marine Captain Chris Air, Lieutenant Felix Carman, Royal Navy Operator Maintainer Arthur Batchelor, Royal Marine Joe Tindell, Operator Maintainer Simon Massey, Leading Seaman Christopher Coe and Royal Marine Adam Sperry all spoke at a media conference at the Royal Marines Base at Chivenor, north Devon.

ON THEIR CAPTURE

On Friday 23 March I, along with 14 of my colleagues, were part of a routine boarding patrol. We deployed from HMS Cornwall in two Rigid Inflatable Boats and patrolled into an area south of the Shatt Al Arab waterway.

This was meant to be a routine boarding operation and followed approximately 66 similar such boardings over the previous four weeks.

We approached an unidentified merchant vessel that our supporting helicopter had identified as worth investigation...

A short while later two speed boats were spotted approaching rapidly about 400 metres away. I ordered everyone to make their weapons ready and ordered the boarding party to return to the boats.

By the time all were back on board, two Iranian boats had come alongside. One officer spoke good English and I explained that we were conducting a routine operation, as allowed under a United Nations mandate.

But when we tried to leave, they prevented us by blocking us in. By now it was becoming increasingly clear that they had arrived with a planned intent.

Some of the Iranian sailors were becoming deliberately aggressive and unstable.

They rammed our boats and trained their heavy machineguns, RPG (rocket-propelled grenades) and weapons on us. Another six boats were closing in on us.

We realised that our efforts to reason with these people were not making any headway. Nor were we able to calm some of the individuals down.

It was at this point that we realised that had we resisted, there would have been a major fight - one that we could not have won and with consequences that would have major strategic impacts.

We made a conscious decision not to engage the Iranians and do as they asked.
Lt Carman

ON THEIR TREATMENT

On arrival at a small Iranian naval base we were blindfolded, stripped of all our kit and led to a room where I declared myself as the officer in charge and was introduced to their local commander.

Two hours later, we were moved to a second location and throughout the night were subjected to random interrogation.

The questions were aggressive and the handling rough, but it was no worse than that.

The following morning, we were flown to Tehran and transported to a prison - where the atmosphere changed completely.

We were blindfolded, our hands were bound, we were forced up against the wall. Throughout our ordeal we faced constant psychological pressure.

Later, we were stripped and dressed in pyjamas. The next few nights were spent in stone cells approximately 8ft by 6ft, sleeping on piles of blankets.

Lieutenant Felix Carman
Lieutenant Carman described how the crew thought they would be shot

All of us were kept in isolation. We were interrogated most nights and presented with two options.

If we admitted 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.

We all, at one time or another, made a conscious decision to make a controlled release of non-operational information.
Lt Carman

We thought we were going to the British embassy but we got taken to a detention centre, all 15 of us.

We had a blindfold and plastic cuffs, hands behind our backs, heads against the wall. Basically there were weapons cocking. Someone, I'm not sure who, someone said, I quote, 'lads, lads I think we're going to get executed'.

After that comment, someone was sick and as far as I was concerned he had just had his throat cut.

From there we were rushed to a room, quick photo and then stuffed into a cell and didn't see or speak to anyone for six days.
Royal Marine Joe Tindell

When we arrived at the prison we were put up against the wall, blindfolded and our hands were bound.

One of the marines understandably thought we were facing a firing squad, as we could hear weapons being cocked behind us.

So he dropped to the floor and was shouting, 'lads we're gonna get executed'.

However, I managed to unbind my hands and uncover my eyes and look back and there was no firing squad there, they were just making gestures.

I then managed to tell my team to relax, that we weren't gonna get shot. That's when I got jumped as well, but no further violence.
Lt Carman

ON FAYE TURNEY

Throughout our ordeal we've tried to remain very much a team. No one individual should be singled out.

But we're now very aware of the special treatment singled out to Faye Turney.

Faye is a young mother and a wife. She volunteered to join the Royal Navy and is very proud to continue to serve.

She's a highly professional operator and we're incredibly proud to have her as a member of our team.

The fact she's a woman has been used as a propaganda tool by Iran. This is deeply regrettable.
Lt Carman

She was separated from us as soon as we arrived in Teheran in the detention centre, and isolated in a cell well away from any of us.

She was told shortly afterwards that we'd all been returned home, and was under the impression for about four days that she was the only one there.

So clearly, she was subjected to quite a lot of stress that we, fortunately, didn't know about, and we weren't subjected to ourselves.

She coped admirably and retained a lot of dignity.
Capt Air

The day it happened, Faye literally put her arms around me and said 'I am going to stay with you until this is complete, I'm looking after you', and since then she did.
Operator Maintainer Batchelor

ON THE PRESSURES

The pressures that we were subjected to were quite diverse in the way it was carried out. It was mainly psychological and emotional.

To start with the isolation was a major part of this and a complete suffocation in terms of information from the outside world.

None of the guards spoke English, we were blindfolded at all times and kept in isolation from each other.

Also when we first went to prison we were put up against the wall, hands bound, blindfolded and people were cocking weapons in the background which, as you can imagine, was an extremely nerve-wracking occasion.
Lt Carman

ON THEIR LOCATION

Irrespective of what has been said in the past, when we were detained by the IRG, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, we were inside internationally-recognised Iraqi territorial waters.

And I can clearly state we were 1.7 nautical miles from Iranian waters.
Lt Carman

ON THEIR IRANIAN MEDIA APPEARANCES

Obviously we're not pleased about it, and as far as I'm concerned the whole thing was a complete media stunt, and I've got nothing else to say really. I'm not their biggest fan, put it that way.
Royal Marine Tindell

It was very much a set-up, very much a stunt for Iranian propaganda...At no time did we say we apologise for intruding into Iranian waters.

At all times we stuck to our guns and said we were conducting our operations legally. The underhand tactics that were used was an insult to our intelligence really.
Lt Carmen

ON NOT FIGHTING BACK

Let me be absolutely clear, from the outset it was very apparent that fighting back was simply not an option. Had we chosen to do so then many of us would not be standing here today. Of that I have no doubts.

The Iranian Navy did not turn up lightly armed; they came with intent, heavy weapons, and very quickly surrounded us.

We were equipped, armed and had rules of engagement for boarding operations within Iraqi water.

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. Reasoning with the Iranians was our only option. We tried.

We did our utmost to de-escalate the situation, but our words fell on deaf ears. They had come with a clear purpose and were never going to leave without us.

The Iranians are not our enemies. We are not at war with them.

Our rules of engagement at that time stated that we could only use lethal force if we felt that we were in imminent danger of a loss of life.

By the time the true intent of the Iranians had become apparent - and we could have legitimately fought back - it was too late for action.
Capt Air

ON THEIR COOPERATION WITH THE IRANIANS

We did not cooperate too much. I would say the allegation is wholly incorrect.

We were very careful about what we said, as we realised that there was a severe risk of a full-scale international situation.

Our captors set out to psychologically confuse us by keeping us alone, feeding us very little and stopping us from communicating.

We were aware that we were part of a propaganda war and I feel proud of the way that every single one of us behaved.

We never believed what they said. We had to use our common sense as our survival was at stake.

We were aware that we were well within Iraqi waters. We were aware that this has been disputed but we are absolutely positive that we carried this whole process out in the correct manner.

We knew that we were doing the right thing.
Capt Air

ON THEIR RELEASE

Yesterday we were reunited with our families after a 14-day ordeal that none of us will ever forget.

On arrival at London Heathrow, we were given the news that four UK servicemen and a civilian interpreter had been killed in Iraq.

We would like to pass on our thoughts and condolences to the families of those who died serving their country.

We would also like to, as a group, thank the staff of the British Embassy in Tehran and the Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence for all their work in securing our release.

We understand that a great deal of effort has been going on behind the scenes to enable us to return to the UK, and for that we are very grateful.
Capt Air



VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Lt Felix Carman describes his experience of being captured





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