Iran shows new footage of 'relaxing' Britons

(AFP) - Iran Monday broadcast new footage of British sailors it held for a fortnight, saying the pictures of them playing table tennis and watching Premiership football belied assertions of maltreatment.

Several of the 15 mariners said on their return to Britain last week that they had been maltreated and subjected to psychological pressure during their detention.

In a clear bid to counter the reports from Britain, Iran's Arabic language channel Al-Alam broadcast fresh footage that showed some sailors playing table tennis and a larger group playing chess on a Persian carpet.

Other pictures showed them watching a crunch football game between Liverpool and Arsenal, laughing while sitting barefoot in tracksuits on a rug and tucking into a meal of kebabs and soup.

"These pictures show the relaxation and freedom they enjoyed during their detention period. This contradicts what they said when they arrived home in Britain," said the channel's newsreader.

" Tehran opened its arms and offered hospitality to the 15 British sailors," added the newsreader.

The footage appears to have been taken at the same time as photographs which were released by the Fars news agency the day before the shock announcement of their release by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday.

The football match watched by the sailors appears to have been Liverpool's 4-1 defeat of Arsenal on March 31, a week after their capture on March 23 on accusations of trespassing into Iranian waters.

Other sections of the lengthy footage saw the detainees flicking through tourist literature about Iran and then being served with a meal of burgers and sandwiches wrapped up in foil.

"The new footage proves that the claims of the British are lies," Iranian state television said on its website.

The sole female British sailor among the 15 captured, Faye Turney, said in an interview with the Sun newspaper published Monday that her captors stripped her to her underwear, lied to her and threatened she might never see her baby again.

Turney was shown in the new footage sitting against a wall with a blue headscarf loosely draped over her head and fiddling with chewing gum.

Meanwhile, the youngest among the 15 Britons, 20-year-old Arthur Batchelor, told the Daily Mirror that he was blindfolded, threatened, and left in solitary confinement for days.

The report concluded with a picture of Royal Navy Lieutenant Felix Carman apparently shaking hands with one of his captors.

"Thank you very much. You are going to be around next week? You're not going to disappear?" he asked.

Carman told a news conference on Friday of the tactics he said were used by their captors to get information and confessions, saying the sailors were kept isolated and their handling was "a bit rough."

Families of British soldiers killed in Iraq, politicians and military figures have heavily criticised the British government for allowing the 15 mariners to sell their stories to the media.

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