Detained British sailors released, says Iran
Richard Spencer in Bahrain and Chris Irvine – Telegraph.co.uk December 2, 2009
Iran's ministry of foreign affairs has confirmed that the sailors have been released, the Foreign Office said.
A statement from Iran's Revolutionary Guard said: "After carrying out an investigation and interrogation of the five British sailors, it became clear that their illegal entry was a mistake.
"After obtaining necessary guarantees, it was decided to release them."
David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, had last night been seeking information from his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki. In a personal conversation he also demanded formal consular access to the men.
Andrew Pindar from Team Pindar, which was due to race the yacht the men were taken in, told The Daily Telegraph his team had spoken to skipper Olly Smith and hoped they would be back in Dubai "within hours".
"It appears as though they're being released and they're all safe and well," he said.
"Our people on the ground in Dubai are in liaison with Olly and we're waiting for an update but it sounds as though they are being released and will be back in Dubai later today."
"As far as I know Olly apologised for giving our guys a few grey hairs. I'm sure they'll be wanting to have a change of clothes and a kip but I believe they have been well treated."
Mr Pindar praised the Foreign Office for the way they handled the situation, but added: "Until they're back in international waters and we've seen them face to face I'm not going to count any chickens."
The father of Oliver Young, one of the five British sailors held in Iran after their yacht was seized in the Gulf, has said he is "very relieved" at reports they have been released.
It had been feared the five men could have been held in Iran until next year if Tehran officials found them to have had "evil intentions". Previous detainees, including some who have seemingly strayed into Iranian territory innocently, have been held for weeks or months.
David Young, father of Oliver, one of the crew members detained, said he had heard the news of the men's release from the Foreign Office and the sailors' team manager.
He said he was "very relieved", adding: "We thought it would be over quickly. This is what we were hoping for."
Charles Porter, father of crew member Luke added they were waiting for confirmation from the Foreign Office and he would not be making a statement until then, while Simon Drayton, brother of Sam Usher's fiancee Nicola Drayton also said they were waiting for confirmation.
"We have not heard anything yet apart from what we have seen on the news - which is putting out that they have been released," he said.
"We have not had any confirmation.
"We will certainly talk to the press once we have a statement from the Foreign Office and we have some details.
"We are frantically trying to find out if it is true or not. We hope to God it is."
Yachtswoman Hannah White, of Lymington, Hampshire, a friend of Oliver Smith, told GMTV: "I have every confidence that their calm nature and their professional manner will have helped them deal with this situation.
"They are also amongst friends - these guys are very close, they get on very well, they have worked together for a long time, they will be seeking strength from each other, I am sure."
Earlier, Vanessa Bloomer, the wife of David, a radio presenter who was the oldest of the captives, told The Daily Telegraph she was "delighted" at reports of their release.
"I have just been told,” she said. "As soon as he gets returned I am sure he will make that call to me to tell me how he is."
The crew of the Kingdom of Bahrain racing yacht, owned by Sail Bahrain, was stopped last Wednesday by Iranian navy on its way from Bahrain to Dubai for the 360-mile Dubai-Muscat Offshore Sailing Race.
Oliver Smith, 31, from Southampton, Oliver Young, 21, from Saltash, near Plymouth, Sam Usher, 26, from Scarborough, North Yorkshire, Luke Porter, 21, from Weston-super-Mare, and Bahrain-based radio presenter David Bloomer, in his 60s, were on board. It is thought they were held on Siri island.
Last updated 03/12/2009