Iran Calls Britons’ Alleged Mistreatment a ‘Lie’
LONDON, April 7 — An Iranian official said Saturday that allegations of mistreatment from a British naval team seized last month in the Persian Gulf were unfounded and stagemanaged.
“The mistreatment of the sailors is a lie,” said Ali Akbar Javanfekr, Iran’s presidential press adviser, according to Agence France-Presse. “By dictating certain statements made by the freed troops, the British authorities are seeking to improve their situation and diminish the pressure of British public opinion.”
The 15 sailors and marines were captured by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in what they insist were Iraqi waters. Iran, which contends that the crew had crossed into Iranian waters, released the group Wednesday in a gesture President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called a gift to the British people.
The crew began two weeks of compassionate leave Saturday.
In a news conference Friday, six of the crew members said they were psychologically intimidated during their 13 days of captivity, and described being blindfolded and lined up facing a wall in a Tehran prison while guards cocked their guns.
A spokesperson for Britain’s Defense Ministry said the Iranian “accusations of stage management speak for themselves.”
In an interview with the Financial Times, the Iranian ambassador in London, Rasoul Movahedian, said: “We played our part, and we showed our goodwill. Now it is up to the British government to proceed in a positive way.” Although no strings were attached to the release, the ambassador said Iran would welcome “any steps that could defuse tensions in the region.”
The United States, Britain and Iran had said there would be no bargaining in the case. Iraqi officials said Saturday that the release of an Iranian diplomat on Tuesday — the day before Ahmadinejad freed the British crew — was coincidental.
Jalal Sharafi, who was seized in Baghdad on Feb. 4, told Iran’s official news agency, IRNA, that he had been kidnapped by an Iraqi organization operating under CIA supervision and that he was tortured. The United States has denied involve- ment in his abduction or release.
Meanwhile, the Vatican acknowledged that Pope Benedict XVI had written to Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei hours before the group’s release. The Guardian reported that the letter asked the supreme leader to do what he could to ensure the crew’s return home by Easter.
Royal Marine Capt. Chris Air, left, leads a group of 15 sailors and marines released by Iran after their arrival at London’s Heathrow Airport on Thursday.