A Pardon is a Gift to the British People

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran would free the 15 detained British sailors and marines Wednesday.

Ahmadinejad said this would be an Easter holiday “gift” to the British people.

“On the occasion of the birthday of the great prophet (Muhammad) … and for the occasion of the passing of Christ, I say the Islamic Republic government and the Iranian people — with all powers and legal right to put the soldiers on trial — forgave those 15,” Ahmadinejad said.

“This pardon is a gift to the British people,” he said.

“On behalf of the great Iranian people, I want to thank the Iranian coast guard who courageously defended and captured those who violated their territorial waters,” Ahmadinejad said at a news conference. “We are sorry that British troops remain in Iraq and their sailors are being arrested in Iran.”

The captives would be taken to the airport at the end of the day, Iranian president said. An Iranian official in London said they would be handed over to British diplomats in Tehran and then it would be up to the Foreign Office to decide how they would return home.

Iranian state television also showed Ahmadinejad meeting with the British crew at the presidential palace, where he shook hands and chatted with them.

The release of the crew members would end a 13-day standoff between London and Tehran that was sparked when the crew was seized as it searched for smugglers off the Iraqi coast. Later, Iran broadcasted videos in which female British sailor Faye Turney and others “confessed” to entering Iranian territorial waters.

Britain denied Iranian claims the crew had entered Iranian waters and some experts suggested that “confessions” were made under pressure.