ROYAL MARINE BASE CHIVENOR, England – The 15 British sailors and marines seized by Iran said Friday they were blindfolded, kept in isolation and warned that if they didn't admit being in Iranian waters they faced up to seven years in jail.
"We were interrogated most nights and given two options," the crew said in an agreed statement read at a press conference. "If we admitted that we had strayed, we would be back on a plane to the UK pretty soon. If we didn't, we faced up to seven years in prison," they revealed.
The group insisted they were in Iraqi waters when they were detained and said that in captivity they suffered "constant psychological pressure." They said they heard weapons being cocked behind them and feared the worst.
"Let me make this clear — irrespective of what was said in the past, we were inside Iraqi waters," Lt. Felix Carman told a news conference attended by 5 of the 15 British sailors and marines held in Iran for nearly two weeks.
"From the outset, it was very apparent that fighting back was not an option," Marine Captain Chris Air said of their capture in the Gulf on March 23.
Within hours of the news conference, Iranian state television said the British military had "dictated" to its sailors what to say.
Air said the crew faced an aggressive Iranian crew. "They rammed our boats, and trained their heavy machine guns, RPGs, and weapons on us."
"We realized that had we resisted there would have been a major fight, one we could not have won and with consequences major strategic impacts," Air said "We made a conscious decision not to engage the Iranians and do as they asked."
The lone female captive, Faye Turney, was isolated in a cell away from the rest of the group. "She was under the impression for about four days that she was the only one there," Air said. "She coped admirably and has maintained a lot of dignity."
The released Navy personnel said all 15 were blindfolded and kept in isolation for much of their detention.
The 15 British sailors and marines were released in Tehran on Thursday after 13 days in captivity and flown back to England where they were greeted by family members.
In a joint statement released earlier, the crew said that they got through the ordeal "by staying together as a team."
"By staying together as a team we kept our spirits up, drawing great comfort from the knowledge that our loved ones would be waiting for us on our return," the statement read.
The crew's first night in Britain included a dinner of roast chicken and beef, and drinks with their families, the Ministry of Defense said.
While much of the country rallied behind the crew's return, others criticized them for offering apologies where none was required — namely for appearing in videos in which they admitted and offered regrets for entering Iranian waters.
But the head of the Royal Navy, Admiral Sir Jonathon Band, told British Broadcasting Corp. radio that the crew had "acted with considerable dignity and a lot of courage."
"They appear to have played it by the rules, they don't appear to have put themselves into danger, others into danger, they don't appear to have given anything away," he said. "I think, in the end, they were a credit to us."
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced Wednesday that the Britons would be released — a breakthrough in a crisis that had raised oil prices and escalated fears of military conflict in the volatile region. The move suggested Iran's hard-line leadership had decided it had shown its strength but did not want to push the standoff too far.
But Iran did not get the main thing it sought — a public apology for entering Iranian waters. Britain insists it never offered a deal, instead relying on quiet and sometimes silent diplomacy.
A senior British government official said the mix of international support and diplomatic ties — however rocky — succeeded.
Countries ranging from Syria to Colombia pressed Iran for the release of the crew, whose capture began at the start Iranian new year celebrations.
"By the time the senior Iranian leaders were getting back from their holiday, they were finding that their phone was ringing off the hook and they were finding that an awful lot of countries — including some quarters they weren't expecting — were ringing them and saying they were in the wrong place and they should be releasing the people quickly," the official said, on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
"I think the Syrians recognized it was a clumsy mistake," the official said.
Phone conversations between Larijani and Blair's chief foreign affairs adviser, Nigel Sheinwald, are believed to have cleared the way to the crew's release and an end to the crisis.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.