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Iran Releases British Sailors

New America Media, News Report, Mary Ambrose Posted: Dec 02, 2009

Iranian authorities today released the five British sailors who were detained last week when their racing yacht drifted into Iranian waters.

Reuters reports that the Revolutionary Guards released a statement on Iranian state radio saying, We reached the conclusion that they entered Irans territorial waters by mistake.

The release of the British sailors could be good news for the three American hikers still being held as alleged spies after they strayed across the Iranian border during a hiking vacation.

Iranian authorities warned that if they establish that the British sailors had bad intentions, they would face serious consequences.

The sailors were picked up as they were sailing from Bahrain to Dubai, where they planned to join the Dubai-Muscat Offshore Sailing Race that started last Thursday. Another British sailor in Dubai told the BBC that it was common knowledge that you dont stray too close to Iran, and if you do, your boat can be confiscated and people are held for a couple of weeks and let go.

In March 2007, 15 British navy personnel were detained after drifting into Iranian waters. They were released two weeks later.

Unlike the hikers, the five young British yachtsmen--Oliver Smith, Sam Usher, Luke Porter, Oliver Young and David Bloomer--had an ambassador in Tehran to help resolve the matter quickly.

In language that could have been describing the American hikers, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said that regarding the yachtsmen, there was no question of evil intent by these young people, and that it was simply a misunderstanding.

Speaking from New York, Hooman Majd, author of the book, The Ayatollah Begs to Differ, predicted that the American hikers would be released soon. But he warned that if U.K. or U.S. citizens are found straying across the Iranian border, theyre initially viewed as very, very suspicious.

Others are not exempt. As AFP reported, in November 2005 French citizen Stephane Lherbier and German citizen Donald Klein were arrested for entering Iranian territorial waters in a fishing boat sentenced to 18 months in jail.

They claimed their maps showed the waters as belonging to the UAE. Both were freed after serving 14 months.

Related Articles:

Hikers Update: Three Are Charged as Spies

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