Scenes of joy as Britons fly home

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The Independent Online
TWO OF the three Britons freed from an Iraqi jail on Thursday flew into Britain last night after being reunited with their families earlier in the day in Amman, the Jordanian capital.

Paul Ride and Michael Wainwright, both held for 18 months, stepped on to the tarmac at Gatwick a little after 9pm and were taken to a VIP suite to meet other relatives.

Simon Dunn, the third member of the group released by Saddam Hussein after Sir Edward Heath's intervention, was staying overnight in Jordan before flying with his parents to their home in Dubai.

There were emotional scenes at Amman airport when the three men arrived by helicopter from the Iraqi border. First off the flight was Mr Dunn, who hugged his mother Carol, followed by Mr Wainwright, whose mother and two sisters waited tearfully near by. Mr Ride's two-year-old son William was lifted into the aircraft only to re-emerge moments later in his father's arms.

Mr Dunn said that they were treated 'with humanity', but that conditions in Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison had been 'basic' and 'not always pleasant'. Mr Wainwright added: 'You took the place as it is. You have just got to abide by their rules and their standards of living there and carry on.'

Their release was welcomed by Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, who was attending a meeting in Brussels. 'There was no bargaining. And it was very good news, too, that Ted Heath was willing to go and get them out,' he said.

Mr Ride, 33, and Mr Wainwright, 42, were jailed last year for 7 and 10 years respectively for 'entering Iraq illegally'. Mr Dunn was arrested last June and sentenced to eight years for the same offence.

Sir Edward, who held more than two hours of talks with Saddam Hussein, said the Iraqi president had promised to release a German and French prisoner.

In what the Treasury emphasised was a separate development, some frozen Iraqi assets held in accounts at the Bank of England are to be transferred to the United Nations to fund humanitarian aid to Iraq.

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