Faye Turney told Britain’s top-selling Sun tabloid in her first interview since the 15 were released by Iran on Thursday after 13 days in detention that she was threatened with years in prison as a spy unless she did what her captors wanted.
Turney said one morning she heard wood being sawn and nails hammered near her cell and a woman measured her with a tape. “I was convinced they were making my coffin,” she told The Sun.
The 25-year-old sailor, a mother with a 3-year-old daughter, said she was kept in isolation for five days and was asked by an Iranian official how she felt about dying for her country. When captured, she feared she could be raped, The Sun said.
Turney became a symbol of the standoff between Britain and Iran, which raised international tensions and rattled financial markets, when she was shown on Iranian television wearing a headscarf and nervously smoking a cigarette.
Iran released three letters said to have been written by Turney. One of them said she had been sacrificed because of the policies of the US and British governments.
The 15 were seized by Iranian forces in the Shatt al-Arab waterway between Iraq and Iran. Iran said they entered its waters illegally. Britain said they were in Iraqi waters.
On their return to Britain, the 15 said they were blindfolded, bound, kept in isolation and told they faced up to seven years in jail.
Iranian television showed new film footage on Sunday of the sailors and marines playing table tennis and chess and watching a soccer match on television while they were in Iran.
Turney’s interview was published amid a furor in Britain over the Defense Ministry’s decision to allow the 15 to sell their stories to the media.
The Sun did not say whether or how much it paid for the interview, carried in its Monday edition.
But The Guardian newspaper said Turney had agreed a joint deal with The Sun and ITV television for close to 100,000 pounds ($197,400), about four times her annual salary.
Opposition politicians and defense commentators sharply criticized the ministry on Sunday for allowing the sailors and marines to sell their stories.
The ministry said it had waived rules barring serving military personnel from selling their stories because of huge public interest in the case. A ministry spokeswoman said the 15 would be allowed to keep any fees they were paid.
"I think every one of us has had offers ... I’m just happy to get the actual truth out in the open because we did receive some criticisms,” Lieutenant Felix Carman, one of the 15, said in a BBC interview for which he was not paid.
William Hague, foreign affairs spokesman for the main opposition Conservatives, told Sky television the armed forces would lose dignity and respect if personnel were allowed to sell their stories whenever they had been in a difficult situation.
Colonel Bob Stewart, former commander of British peacekeeping forces in Bosnia, told the BBC the decision was unprecedented and said the capture of the 15 was “hardly one of the most glorious annals of royal naval history".