LONDON (Reuters) – Two of the 15 British sailors and marines held by Iran said in interviews published on Monday they feared they would be raped or killed while in custody.
Sailor Faye Turney, the only woman, said the Iranians asked how she felt about dying for her country and warned she may never see her daughter again.
Turney, 25, said she heard wood being sawn and nails hammered near her cell, and a woman measured her with a tape.
“I was convinced they were making my coffin,” she told the Sun newspaper. When captured, she feared she could be raped, she added.
Arthur Batchelor, 20, the youngest in the group, said he “cried like a baby” in his cell after he was blindfolded, handcuffed and taunted by his guards.
“I was absolutely exhausted by the pressure,” he told the Daily Mirror. “There were times when I feared being raped or killed.”
The decision by Britain’s Ministry of Defence to let the group sell their stories has kicked up a furore, with many Britons, including retired military officers, calling it a disgrace.
The 15 were seized by Iranian forces in the Shatt al-Arab waterway between Iraq and Iran. Iran said they entered its waters illegally. Britain said they were in Iraqi waters.
Freed last week after 13 days, they told an official news conference on their return home that they had been blindfolded, bound, kept in isolation and threatened with up to seven years in jail.
So far only Turney and Batchelor have sold their accounts, provoking so much criticism that it may dissuade the others.
Turney, a mother with a three-year-old daughter who is due to appear on prime-time television in an interview on Monday evening, said she was kept in isolation for five days.
She became a symbol of the stand-off between Britain and Iran when she was shown on Iranian television wearing a headscarf and nervously smoking cigarettes.
Iran released three letters said to have been written by Turney. One of them said she had been sacrificed because of the policies of the U.S. and British governments.
“When they wanted me to write what was written about the British and American troops, I felt like a traitor,” Turney tells ITV in the interview.
Iranian television showed new footage on Sunday of the 15 playing table tennis and chess and watching a soccer match on television while they were in Iran, in apparent contradiction of the troops’ description of their treatment.
Earlier Iranian footage had shown them smiling and seeming relaxed.
The Sun did not say whether or how much it paid for the interview with Turney which it ran on Monday.
But the Guardian newspaper said she had agreed a joint deal with the Sun and ITV television for close to 100,000 pounds ($197,400), about four times her annual salary.
Opposition politicians and defence commentators sharply criticized the Ministry of Defence on Sunday, saying it was using the sailors and marines in a propaganda war, a tactic that was little better than Tehran’s use of them.
The ministry said it had waived rules barring serving military personnel from selling their stories because of huge public interest in the case. They can keep any fees they earn.
“I think every one of us has had offers … I’m just happy to get the actual truth out in the open because we did receive some criticisms,” Lieutenant Felix Carman, one of the 15, said in a BBC interview for which he was not paid.
The mother of a 19-year-old British soldier killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq at the weekend said she would be “very shocked” if any of the detainees were paid for their stories.
“If you are a member of the military, it is your duty to serve your country,” Sally Veck, mother of Eleanor Dlugosz, told the Times. “You should do your duty and not expect to make money by selling stories.”