Iran warns arrested British sailors of 'hard and serious' punishment

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London, Dec. 2 (ANI): The Iranian government has threatened five captive British sailors with "hard and serious" punishment if they are found guilty of crossing the country's territorial waters intentionally.

The Sun quoted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's head of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, as saying: "Naturally, our measures will be hard and serious if we find they had evil intentions."

Iran's warning came as distraught families of the men pleaded for their release.

The sailors - Oliver Young and Luke Porter, both 21; Sam Usher, 26; Oliver Smith, 31, and David Bloomer, in his 40s - are being held by the Revolutionary Guards at a secret location.

The five were crewing the racing yacht Kingdom of Bahrain,from Bahrain to Dubai when it was stopped on Wednesday. It is thought to have strayed less than 500 yards inside Iranian waters.

Luke's dad Charles said: "It's the first time as a parent I've been in a situation where I've had no way of helping."

Oliver Young's dad David said: "It is dragging out longer than we thought. It's a worry that there are diplomatic stresses."

Sam's fianceé, Nicola Drayton, said at their home in Scarborough, North Yorks: "It's difficult but you just get on, you have no choice."

Smith is an engineer from Southampton and his teammate Bloomer is a sports broadcaster in Bahrain.

Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband spoke with his Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and sought assurances over the Brits' safety.

"There has been an intensification of contact in the course of the day. We have been making the simple point which is this is a consular case. The Iranian investigation of the incident can take place quickly and then they should get home," he said.

Ahmadinejad appeared to be using the captives to distract world attention from Iran's nuclear weapons aspirations. Diplomats feared the ruthless regime could subject the men's families to months of anguish. (ANI)

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