Referring to them as “insurgents”, the site concluded: “If it is proven that they deliberately entered Iranian territory, they will be charged with espionage. If that is proven, they can expect a very serious penalty since according to Iranian law, espionage is one of the most serious offences.”
The warning followed claims by Iranian officials that the British navy personnel had been taken to Tehran, the capital, to explain their “aggressive action” in entering Iranian waters. British officials insist the servicemen were in Iraqi waters when they were held.
The penalty for espionage in Iran is death. However, similar accusations of spying were made when eight British servicemen were detained in the same area in 2004. They were paraded blindfolded on television but did not appear in court and were freed after three nights in detention.
Lord Triesman, the Foreign Office minister, met the Iranian ambassador in London yesterday to demand that consular staff be allowed access to the Britons, one of whom is a woman. His intervention came as a senior Iranian general alleged that the Britons had confessed under interrogation to “aggression into Iran’s waters”.
Intelligence sources said any advance order for the arrests was likely to have come from Major-General Yahya Rahim Safavi, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards.
Subhi Sadek, the Guards’ weekly newspaper, warned last weekend that the force had “the ability to capture a bunch of blue-eyed blond-haired officers and feed them to our fighting cocks”.
It is unclear where the British sailors are being held, or how they are being treated. Harry's Place points out that, if the sailors did, as the Iranians claim, confess to "aggression in Iran's waters", then that confession was most likely obtained by something akin to torture. Certainly whatever conditions they are in are likely to be deeply unpleasant.
Because that is what this is. Iran has long been waging war against the west secretly, supporting terrorist groups and attempting to develop nuclear weapons. Now it has seized British servicement, possibly tortured them, and threatened to execute them. This cannot be tolerated, and we must be prepared to use force to stop it.