They’ll be “pardoned,” according to Fox News, in honor of “the Prophet’s birthday.” CNN is hearing the same thing. The press conference in Tehran is still going on, so standby.

Update: No details yet but here’s the AP story. It’ll be updated soon. Apparently Ahmadinejad made much of the fact that one of the sailors was a woman, and that he simply couldn’t bear to have a mother away from her children the way the west can.

Update: Sky News is on it too, and basically liveblogged the press conference.

Update: The fact that they let/made Ahmadinejad make the announcement smacks of a face-saving gesture. According to the Times, Ahmadinejad’s hardliners were split with the pragmatists about how far to pursue confrontation here. You may remember the Times of London claimed a few days ago that the hardliners themselves were split, with the head of the Revolutionary Guard advocating that the sailors be freed. Sounds like “Mahdi” and his crew lost the debate but Khamenei threw him a bone by letting him look powerful and magnanimous by framing the release as a presidential pardon. The fact that it’s a pardon also assumes that a crime was committed, of course, which is another face-saving gesture.

The question now, given the de facto prisoner exchange yesterday involving that Iranian diplomat kidnapped in Iraq, is how much Britain — or we — gave up to make this happen.

Update: And right on cue, here’s maybe the beginning of an answer to that question: according to Iranian TV, the U.S. is going to let an Iranian envoy meet with the five Quds Force members captured in Irbil.

Update: Fox is wondering how soon it’ll be until they’re released, but according to Sky it’s supposed to happen right after the press conference.

Update: It’s an Easter present! Well, a Good Friday present, strictly speaking:

“On the occasion of the birthday of the great prophet (Muhammad) … and for the occasion of the passing of Christ, I say the Islamic Republic government and the Iranian people — with all powers and legal right to put the soldiers on trial — forgave those 15,” he said, referring to the Muslim prophet’s birthday on March 30 and the Easter season.

Here’s the bit about the woman sailor:

He criticized Britain for deploying Leading Seaman Faye Turney, one of the 15 detainees, in the Gulf, pointing out that she is a woman with a child.

“How can you justify seeing a mother away from her home, her children? Why don’t they respect family values in the West?” he asked of the British government.

Update: Sky has video of the announcement. Click the image to watch.

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Update: He was supposed to have held this presser yesterday to escalate the matter further but it got cancelled at the eleventh hour, probably because of the release of the Iranian diplomat. This is what it would have sounded like, in all likelihood — minus any declaration of pardon:

“I’m asking Mr Blair to not put these 15 personnel on trial because they admitted they came to Iranian territorial water,” he said, referring to taped “confessions” made by the British sailors and marines…

“Unfortunately the British government was not even brave enough to tell their people the truth, that it made a mistake,” Mr Ahmadinejad said.

“We have every right to put these people on trial,” he asserted.

Update: They’re wringing every last drop of propaganda they can out of it. Here’s video of “Mahdi” meeting with some of the sailors, all festooned in snappy new suits. Click the image to watch.

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How tall is he, exactly? About 4’6, say?

Update: Repulsive. Gateway Pundit has more photos in this vein, too.

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Update: The Daily Mail says they’re scheduled tentatively to fly out tomorrow. Follow the link for yet another disgusting photo at the top of the page.

Update: The Times of London is on the same wavelength as I am, speculating that Ahmadinejad lost an internal battle and was allowed by Khamenei to play benefactor to mitigate his embarrassment. Time thinks it was either Khamenei himself or Ali Larijani, the Iranian NSA who granted the interview to British TV the other day, who was the driving force.

Update: Interesting report by Ken Timmerman, whose sources in Iran corroborate the Times of London article linked earlier in this post about there having been a disagreement among Iranian hardliners. Like ToL, Timmerman hears that the commander of the Revolutionary Guard wanted the sailors freed — coincidentally, at around the time the USS Nimitz started on its way towards the Gulf.

Timmerman also thinks it’s no coincidence that we didn’t see any group photos of the hostages until today:

Within four days of their capture on March 23, the 15 Britons were split up into smaller groups and held in different areas, Iranian sources told NewsMax. This was a lesson learned from the 1979-1981 hostage crisis, when all 55 U.S. hostages were initially kept in one place.

That crisis, which occurred during the Jimmy Carter administration, prompted a U.S. attempt to rescue the hostages by force. After that attempt failed at Desert One in April 1980, the Iranians split up the U.S. hostages so it would be more difficult to rescue them.

At one point during the current hostage crisis, the British team was split up into five groups of three, with each group kept at a different military base. The Iranians would then bring several groups together and film them, to give the impression they were being held together.

He suspects Khamenei ordered the operation as a test of western resolve over the nuclear crisis. Which, if true, would be yet another nail in the coffin of that moronic Independent article from the other day.

Tags: Fox News