Saturday, April 14, 2007

[wvns] Captured British Soldiers Sell Stories

British Sailors Profit Off Iran Captivity Stories

About-turn on sailors' stories
Julia May, London
April 11, 2007

Sailor Arthur Batchelor with a family member at the Royal Marine base
at Chivenor shows the relief of his release from Iran.
Photo: AP

THE 15 British sailors seized by Iranian forces have been banned from
selling their stories to the media after a Government reversal, but
not before two detainees gave interviews for apparent five-figure sums.

On Monday, the Government banned media deals for the navy personnel —
who were released by the Iranian Government on April 4 — following
widespread protest about their special treatment. In a statement,
Defence Secretary Des Browne admitted the Government had "not reached
a satisfactory outcome" by allowing the sailors to make money from
media interviews.

Opposition parties, military figures and families of other Britons
involved in military conflict had protested against the sailors
profiting from their experience. They said they were being used by the
Government in a propaganda war with Iran. The Government denied this

Before the about-turn, the only woman and the youngest of the 15
sailors and marines gave interviews detailing their 12 days in
detention for allegedly trespassing in Iranian waters.

Operator mechanic Arthur Batchelor, 20, told the Daily Mirror that he
had "cried like a baby" and had been mocked by his Iranian captors for
looking like the British comedy character Mr Bean.

"They were trying to make me feel like a fool, hoping that I would
give away secrets to prove that I wasn't," Seaman Batchelor said.
"We've all seen the videos. I was frozen in terror and just stared
into the darkness of my blindfold."

Leading Seaman Faye Turney, who has a small daughter, reportedly sold
her story to the Sun and ITV for at least $200,000. She told the
newspaper that she believed she was being measured up for a coffin,
and discussed the dilemma of publicly admitting that their ship, HMS
Cornwall, had illegally entered Iranian waters despite assertions by
the British Government that it was in Iraqi waters.

"If I did not, they would put me on trial for espionage and I'd go to
prison for several years," she said. "I had just an hour to think
about it."

The Ministry of Defence initially granted permission for the
interviews, citing exceptional media interest in the detainees.
Military personnel are generally barred from profiting from their
activities unless they have committed acts of valour.

But the mother of a British servicewoman killed in Iraq criticised the
department for allowing the group to profit. Sally Veck, whose
daughter, Eleanor Dlugosz, 19, died in a bomb attack in Basra last
Thursday, told The Times: "If you are a member of the military, it is
your duty to serve your country. You should do your duty and not
expect to make money by selling stories."

The Conservative Party's defence spokesman, Liam Fox, was reported as
saying the sailors had been "put up for auction in the most horribly
undignified fashion, something that has not gone unnoticed overseas".

A former defence minister for the opposition Conservatives, Michael
Heseltine, told the BBC: "I have never heard anything so appalling."

As the debate built to a fever pitch, Mr Browne said the Royal Navy
had faced "a tough call" in permitting its captured personnel to
accept payments.

"I want to be sure those charged with these difficult decisions have
clear guidance for the future," he said in a statement.

"Until that time, no further service personnel will be allowed to talk
to the media about their experiences in return for payment."

The 15 navy personnel were released after being publicly pardoned by
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who shook hands and joked with
them as they lined up to offer apologies. At the same ceremony, he
awarded medals to the Iranian commanders who detained them.



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