Foreign Affairs Minister Kamal Kharrazi was quoted as saying the British crew ‘will be freed today’. They were expected to be handed over to UK embassy officials in Tehran, but their military patrol boats may continue to be held by Iranian authorities.

The men were detained on 21 June in the Shatt al-Arab waterway, where they were seized along with three boats and personal weapons. The UK government claimed they had been delivering a patrol boat to the Iraqi river patrol service, who they were responsible for training.

London expressed concern after the men appeared on Iranian television wearing blindfolds and apologising for mistakenly crossing into Iranian waters. Tehran had earlier threatened to prosecute the men.

‘Considering statements by British sailors that the boats carrying them mistakenly entered Iran’s territorial waters, the armed forces decided to release the boats and their occupants,’ armed forces spokesman Ali Reza Afshar told state radio.