LONDON – The 15 British sailors and marines held by Iran for nearly two weeks have been granted permission to sell their stories to the media, the Ministry of Defense said Sunday.
The decision has caused unease in Britain, however, with critics suggesting such interviews are inappropriate for military personnel.
Serving service personnel are usually not allowed to enter into financial arrangements with media organizations, but exceptions are allowed, the defense ministry said in a statement.
"It was clear that the stories they had to tell were likely to have emerged via family and friends regardless of any decision the Navy took," the ministry statement said.
"It was therefore decided to grant permission to speak to the media to those personnel that sought it, in order to ensure that the Navy and the MoD had sight of what they were going to say, as well as providing proper media support to the sailors and marines."
Lt. Felix Carman, who was in charge of the crew on March 23, the day the sailors and marines were seized by Iranian forces, told the British Broadcasting Corp. that he was uninterested in making money from his time in captivity.
"My main aim is to tell the story," he said. "There's some people who might be making money, but that's an individual's decision, that's very private, but that's not something that myself or many of the others will do," he told BBC.
The Sunday Times reported that the only woman in the group, 26-year-old Leading Seaman Faye Turney, could earn as much as $300,000 from deals with a broadcaster and a newspaper.
In all, the crew could earn as much as $490,000 between them, the paper said.
Turney did not participate in a news conference on Friday. A detailed statement, agreed by all 15 crew members, was read out, and six of the crew answered questions from reporters. The statement said they were subjected to constant psychological pressure.
The crew included seven Royal Marines, who have agreed to pool their fees and split them evenly, sending 10 percent to a military benevolent fund, both the Sunday Times and Sunday Telegraph said. The rest of the captured crew was made up of Royal Navy sailors, including Turney.
Navy regulations "allow personnel to retain fees paid to them for broadcasting, lecturing or writing for publication under certain circumstances, and the Navy's judgment was that in this particular instance this was such a case. This decision has been taken as a result of exceptional media interest," the ministry said.
The sailors and marines were captured in the Persian Gulf on March 23 and freed last week by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who called their release a gift to Britain. They began two weeks of leave with their families on Saturday.
British media regularly pay for high-profile interviews. But the decision to allow the crew to sell their stories has sparked debate.
William Hague, the opposition Conservative party's foreign affairs spokesman, told Sky News his party would question the decision in Parliament.
The party's defense spokesman, Liam Fox, said many people would feel that selling the stories was "somewhat undignified and falls below the very high standards we have come to expect from our servicemen and women."
Menezies Campbell, who leads the third party Liberal Democrats, told the BBC he was concerned there could be "inadvertent" leaks of sensitive information.
"And there is, of course, the very understandable feeling of the families of those who have died in Iraq as to why it should be that those who have survived should — putting it bluntly — profit in this way," he said.