The detention of five British yachtsmen by the Iranian navy has "no link with politics or the Iranian nuclear file" says Britain's Foreign Secretary David Miliband on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Iran's ambassador to London, Rasoul Movahedian, was summoned to the Foreign Office for talks to clarify where the Britons were being held and how their "speedy release" could be obtained, a spokesman said.
Iran earlier on Tuesday confirmed the arrest of five British citizens after their racing yacht was stopped by the Iranian navy last Wednesday en route from Bahrain to Dubai. Iran's presidential chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei, told the Fars news agency that the Britons had entered Iran illegally. He added that, if it was proven that they entered Iran with ill intentions, such as spying, then they would face serious and harsh legal actions.
Well seeing as they were adrift with no method of steering then yes it seems that they may have entered Iranian waters accidentally. To suggest that this group on there way to a yacht race were spying is either paranoid or they are making use of this group for political purposes. Much as they in 2007, when 15 British sailors were captured, though at least that time they were military personnel. So much for the 'no link with politics' Miliband, is seems to be precisely because of politics.
However is was foolish of these people to be anywhere near the border, after what happened last time. Very great care should have been taken by the group, and the race organisers, to brief them properly.
Keith Mutch, general manager of the Dubai offshore sailing club, the race organisers, said: "In all of our sailing instructions, skippers are briefed to stay away from Iranian waters. I've been told, although I can't confirm this, that Team Pindar had lost her propeller. We were waiting for her to come and pick one up."
In March 2007 a group of 15 British sailors were seized by Iran while in disputed waters. They were released after around two weeks, but only after a tense diplomatic standoff between London and Tehran. Relations between Tehran and the West have not improved since then and chilled further after the Islamic republic announced Sunday that it plans to build another 10 uranium enrichment plants.
In the 2007 incident, eight sailors and seven marines were captured on March 23. Britain insisted they were in Iraqi territorial waters, while Tehran said they were in Iranian waters.
Britain pursued quiet diplomacy for the first few days, but after then foreign minister Margaret Beckett hit a dead end in talks with Mottaki, London's patience snapped. During the 13 days they were held, the 14 men and one woman were not mistreated but were paraded on Iranian television, sparking anger from Britain and other Western governments. They also released a letter claiming to be from the kidnapped sailor, Leading Seaman Turney, calling for British troops to be withdrawn from Iraq.
World News Australia says Previous incidents involving foreigners being seized by Iranian authorities include in November 2005 when Frenchman Stephane Lherbier and German Donald Klein were arrested for entering Iranian territorial waters in a fishing boat, and were each sentenced to 18 months in jail. Both were freed after serving 14 months.
And in March 2006, two Swedish nationals, Stefan Johanssen and Jari Hjortmar, were arrested for taking pictures of military installations on Iran's southern island of Qeshm and sentenced to two years in prison. They were released after a year behind bars. The two men said they had been misled by Emirati maps showing the waters as belonging to the UAE.
Craig Murray says "Unlike military personnel boarding ships, civilian ships have every right to sail through anybody's territorial waters, including Iran's. The Right to Innocent Passage, subject to reasonable navigation safety regulations, is enshrined in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. So the Iranians had absolutely no right to arrest these yachtsmen, whether they were in Iranian territorial waters or not."
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