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Iranian Hostage Sailor Drunkenly Mocks Ordeal

UK Daily Mail | April 23, 2007 
LIZ HULL

The youngest of the Iranian hostages has been accused of embarrassing the Royal Navy after pictures emerged of him apparently poking fun at their ordeal while drunk.

Arthur Batchelor - who has already been condemned for selling his story - and the 14 other captured sailors and Marines have been on two weeks' compassionate leave following their ordeal last month.

Instead of quietly recuperating, however, 20-year-old Batchelor was caught on camera at a nightclub in Plymouth staging a tasteless re-enactment of his treatment.

The Operator Mechanic said he had cried himself to sleep after his Iranian captors likened him to Mr Bean and stole his iPod.

But pictures taken by the club DJ show him blindfolded with a tea-towel and laughing as a friend pretends to hold him at gunpoint.

Another shows the 5ft 2in tall crewman pulling a face while a reveller holds a toy rifle under his chin.

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In a third, he is seen wearing a nightie while he poses with three girls.

The photos were taken last weekend at Jesters nightclub in Plymouth, a regular haunt for sailors from Batchelor's ship, HMS Cornwall.

Revellers claimed that Batchelor, who sold his story for an alleged five-figure sum, was drinking heavily and behaving like a minor celebrity.

His antics have been condemned as insensitive and insulting to service personnel fighting in Iraq.

Anna Aston, 34, whose husband was one of the six Red Caps killed by a mob in Basra in 2003, said: "There are people out there risking their lives while he is acting the idiot. It makes a mockery of everyone's attempts to get him home safe and sound. A serviceman should behave with dignity and pride."

In postings on military websites, forces colleagues rounded on Batchelor. One wrote: "We have people getting killed and this **** makes it look like a joke."

Another, referring to the decision to let the hostages sell their stories if they chose, wrote: "Batchelor wouldn't even be given the time of day, were it not for the decision made two weeks ago."

Politicians were equally angry. Ex-Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, a former Scots Guard, said: "This is horrific for the families of the deceased in Iraq.

"They need to know their sons and daughters didn't die in vain but this cheapens their sacrifice. It's intolerable."

Nightclub owner Stephen Locke said: "Arthur has had a couple of weeks off and has been living it up. Those snaps are a bit contentious but hopefully everyone will see the funny side."

Batchelor, who is due back to work today, was one of 15 hostages held for 13 days after being seized last month in disputed waters between Iran and Iraq.

He and Leading Seaman Faye Turney, 26, later sold their stories. But after an outcry, the Government was forced into a U-turn and banned the others from talking about their ordeal.

Batchelor said: "I was just messing about with my friends. The MoD has told me not to speak to the newspapers."

A Navy spokesman said: "Arthur Batchelor has been through a very traumatic experience and is just letting his hair down. We do not police Navy personnel in their own time."

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