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WAR: UK Sailors Released From Iranian Custody

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posted on Jun, 23 2004 @ 10:44 AM
Iran says eight British servicemen detained on the border with Iraq on Monday are to be freed. Though initially believed to have been released today, Iranian officials have delayed the release until Thursday.
The eight have now been released to British diplomats in Tehran. They are healthy and said to be in good spirits.

The men were detained on Monday in the Shatt al-Arab waterway that runs along the Iran-Iraq border as they were delivering a patrol boat for the new Iraqi Riverine Patrol Service.

The waterway is known as the Arvand River in Iran.

A top military official had said the Britons were being released because their intrusion into Iran's waters was apparently a mistake. Two of had been shown on Iranian TV apologising and acknowledging they had made a mistake.

Iran had earlier said the men would be prosecuted and were shown on Iranian television blindfolded and seated cross-legged on the ground.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said Foreign Minister Kamal played a key role in resolving the minor border incident that was turning into a major diplomatic crisis.

Please visit the link provided for the complete story.

Related ATSNN Stories:
Iran to Prosecute British Sailors

[edit on 24-6-2004 by Banshee]

[edit on 6-25-2004 by Valhall]

posted on Jun, 23 2004 @ 10:51 AM
The report of the release of eight UK sailors held in Iran is confirmed in a report by the Belfast Telegraph.

Belfast sailor handed over
Iranians release river incident servicemen

By Mary Fitzgerald

23 June 2004
EIGHT British servicemen, including an east Belfast sailor, have been released from detention in Iran, the country's foreign ministry said today.

The men were arrested on Monday when three British naval craft were seized in the Shatt al-Arab waterway near the Iraqi border.

The MoD said the boats were being used to train the Iraqi river patrol service, and may have strayed across into Iranian waters by mistake.

A Foreign Ministry spokeswoman in Tehran told reporters today: "The eight British sailors, including six soldiers and two ranking military officials, have been released."

Iranian armed forces spokesman Ali Reza Afshar said, "the order for the release of the vessels and their military crew was issued" after British forces said they had "made a mistake".

He said the army command was satisfied that the arms and equipment found in the three British naval craft had been for use during their patrolling duties.

"Considering statements by the British sailors that the boats carrying them mistakenly entered Iran's territorial waters, the armed forces decided to release the boats and their occupants," he told Iranian state radio today.

The men appeared blindfolded on Iranian TV yesterday, admitting they had entered Iranian territorial waters illegally.

They were expected to be handed over to British embassy officials later today.

The incident, which threatened to escalate into a huge diplomatic row, came at a time of strained relations between Iran and the UK.

Several demonstrations have been held outside the British embassy in Tehran in recent weeks in protest at the occupation of Iraq.

Britain has accused Iran of being less than fully co-operative with the International Atomic Energy Agency on the inspection of its nuclear programme

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[edit on 23-6-2004 by zero lift]

posted on Jun, 23 2004 @ 02:53 PM
now the major outlets are saying that the release will be delayed. I'd suggest adding "to be" to the headline.

posted on Jun, 24 2004 @ 04:55 AM
Yeah, unless some one can confirm an article later than this one, it looks like something went wrong in the release for now.

posted on Jun, 24 2004 @ 07:07 AM
Reuters are now reporting that the eight UK sailors have been released in to the custody of UK personnel and have been flown to Teheran.

Iran frees eight British servicemen
Thu June 24, 2004 07:37 AM ET

By Parisa Hafezi and Christian Oliver
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Eight British servicemen have been freed after three nights in the hands of Iranian Revolutionary Guards, ending a diplomatic wrangle that had threatened to inflame tensions over Britain's presence in Iraq.

British diplomats took custody of the eight naval personnel and flew with them to Tehran from the Gulf area where they were detained on Monday after straying into Iranian waters.

The servicemen were shown blindfolded on Iranian television shortly after their capture, but had also been treated by their captors later, as diplomacy progressed, to chopped meat stew.

Diplomatic relations had already soured over British pressure on Iran's atomic programme but Foreign Secretary Jack Straw insisted on Thursday he still backed a policy of engagement with Iran, despite the arrests.

"I am in no doubt at all that our policy of engagements with the government of Iran ... is the best approach," Straw said in London, shortly after the eight were released.

"We have worked hard on diplomatic relations with Iran ... Sometimes the relationships are complicated."

Diplomats had been locked in negotiations deep into Wednesday night, deliberating over the return of the men's equipment -- an issue which remained unresolved on Thursday. "That's another matter and is subject to further discussions," Straw said.

The eight were held in the sweltering province of Khuzestan in Iran's oil-rich southwest after they were seized on the Shatt al-Arab waterway along the Iran-Iraq border.

Diplomats visited them on Wednesday and said they had been well looked after. Television showed them lounging on beds with bright quilts and the semi-official Fars news agency quoted Revolutionary Guards saying they had given their guests a traditional diced-meat stew.

"At least now we can be pleased that they're happy and released. And I'm told that they are in very good spirits and well cared for," Straw said.


Iran's Arabic-language Al-Alam channel had shown the men blindfolded and forced to walk in single file earlier in their detention.

Straw, in comments to reporters outside Prime Minister Tony Blair's Downing Street office, was deliberately conciliatory and avoided comment on the TV images of the men that have outraged many in Britain.

"Obviously I'm very pleased indeed as I know their families and service colleagues will be," he said of their imminent homecoming. "I'd like to express my thanks to my colleague, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, for his assistance."

The eight men had been taken to the British embassy in Tehran, from where they would probably return to their base in Iraq, a spokesman for Blair said.

While deeply opposed to the U.S.-led war in Iraq, Iran has in the past turned a blind eye to foreign aircraft and boats on its western border.

But hardline Iranian newspapers were unenthusiastic about the prospect of an early release. "What's the hurry in releasing the British spies?" asked Jomhuri-ye Eslami, arguing the men had been equipped with espionage equipment.

A handful of protesters at Tehran's airport waved banners calling for the men to be put on trial.

Kharrazi had said an inquiry had found the men to have had no ill-intentions and had just veered off course in the wreck-infested straits.

Revolutionary Guards spokesman Massoud Jazaeri told Reuters the men would have been detained longer if they had been carrying such kit, but said what they had was well suited to normal river patrol missions.

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