[h=1]Saddam Hussein ordered execution of journalist Farzad Bazoft, records reveal [/h] Former Iraqi leader argued against clemency and grumbled over length of time it would take to have Bazoft hanged reddit this Luke Harding guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 26 October 2011 18.14 BST Article history Farzad Bazoft was hanged on 30 March 1990. Photograph: Jane Bown for the Observer Saddam Hussein personally ordered the execution of the Observer journalist Farzad Bazoft to punish Margaret Thatcher and humiliate Britain, secret recordings released in Washington reveal. The late Iraqi leader insisted there could be no clemency for Bazoft, whom he described wrongly as a "an Israeli spy working for the British". Hussein also grumbled over the length of time it would take to have Bazoft hanged. "A whole month!" he exclaimed to an aide, after being told the sentence could not be carried out immediately. "I say we execute him in Ramadan, and this will be punishment for Margaret Thatcher." Bazoft, an Iranian-born freelance journalist, was arrested in Iraq in September 1989. He had been investigating reports of a mystery explosion at a military complex south of Baghdad. He was charged with spying for Israel. His death sentence prompted worldwide outrage and led to frantic attempts by Thatcher's government to ensure his release. But transcripts of a meeting between Hussein, Tariq Aziz, Iraq's foreign minister, and other senior regime figures show Bazoft's fate had already been sealed. The Iraqi dictator rejected attempts to secure clemency for Bazoft as examples of British "arrogance". He also derided Thatcher's attempt to use King Hussein of Jordan as a mediator. "A mediator! Only God can mediate for him," Hussein said in the recordings. "Are they [the British] underestimating us? After all the damages we've suffered and sacrifices that we have made over the last eight years, the British still do not know us well! Thatcher sent us a nice message, and we answered her with a nicer message, huh?" Bazoft was 31 when he was executed on 30 March 1990. He came to England from Iran in 1975, at the age of 16, and stayed on after the Khomeini revolution. He wrote pieces on the Iran-Iraq war and as a known opponent of the Iranian regime travelled five times to Iraq to report from the frontline. During his sixth trip he set off to investigate a potentially sensational scoop: that experiments with chemical weapons might have caused the explosion at the military complex. Having got to the site, he collected samples and took photos. He was detained by security officials at Baghdad airport. The journalist was held in prison for six months and made to "confess" on Iraqi TV to the spying charges. His execution took place, at Saddam's explicit instruction it now appears, just before Ramadan. Hussein invaded Kuwait months later, triggering the first Gulf war, in an act that transformed him from regionally dangerous despot to internationally notorious tyrant. A British nurse, Daphne Parish, who drove Bazoft to the site of the military complex, was jailed for 15 years but freed in the summer of 1990. It appears that even if Bazoft had had British citizenship at the time of his arrest, this would not have saved him. The transcript reads: Saddam Hussein: [This conversation was already in progress] All of you must circulate the summary of this spy issue to our ambassadors immediately. Tariq Aziz: Yes, [inaudible]. Hussein: You should deal with them [Bazoft and Parish] normally. In brief, he [Bazoft] is an Israeli spy; I mean he is an Israeli spy working for the British. Hamid: Yes, sir. Hussein: He was originally recruited by the British and then by the Israelis, and he confessed to this. Therefore, the summary of this issue is what he said during the investigation and in the court, including his confessions. Aziz: Yes. Hussein: He is a spy. [A sound of a camera shutter is heard] Aziz: Maybe Comrade Hamid can call the head of the court. Hamid: Sir, I called the intelligence agency which wrote a summary and sent it to the ministry of foreign affairs and [inaudible]. Hussein: There are no differences between the confessions he made to the intelligence agency from those made in court. Hamid: The same statement, sir; he did not deny it in court. Hussein: The same statement; he repeated the same thing he said in the investigation. He showed up on Baghdad television and confirmed in both, the court and on television, that he has not been tortured. He is originally an Iranian who has the citizenship of Aziz: He does not have citizenship. Hamid: He does not have citizenship, sir. Hussein: He does not? Hamid: He has a resident card and a British passport, but he is not a citizen. Hussein: How stupid they are! The New York Times published the extract from a giant cache of documents and records of meetings seized by US troops in 2003 during their invasion of Iraq. Much of it remains secret. The Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars on Wednesday published 20 transcripts and documents as part of a conference on the Iran-Iraq war. The Times likened the recordings to the secret Oval Office tapes that helped to bring down Richard Nixon, and which offered an unprecedented insight into the inner workings of the White House. The Iraqi tapes cover the years 1976 to 2003. They were apparently made under Hussein's personal orders. He routinely recorded meetings of Iraq's revolutionary command council and other national security-related working groups, vigilant for signs of disloyalty. It is not clear when the discussion concerning Bazoft took place, but the most likely date is early 1990, as the Ba'athist regime came under tremendous international pressure to pardon the journalist. The tapes also shed light on Hussein's paranoid mindset. He nursed a suspicion, unjustified, that the US was deliberately perpetuating Iraq's bloody conflict with Iran. He can be heard given an order to execute two pilots who failed to carry out a bombing mission. Hans Binnendijk, of the National Defence University, which edited and translated the tapes, describes Hussein as "highly intelligent but frequently deluded", with little understanding of the world beyond the Middle East. The recordings also bear witness to the sycophantic behaviour of his inner circle, including Aziz, who has been in prison in Baghdad since 2003, where he remains under sentence of death. Aziz was Iraq's top diplomat and the public face of the Hussein regime in the west. But it now clear that, in the interests of personal survival, he never disagreed with his boss. Aziz is recorded chipping in with the name of the British foreign secretary, Douglas Hurd. In bitter tones, Aziz and Saddam discuss increasingly desperate British efforts to have Bazoft released. Hussein suggests that he might have been willing to pardon Bazoft were it not for a hostile British propaganda campaign directed against Iraq and its interests. At one point he says of the British: "May God damn them." Aziz muses: "They are trying to strengthen a feeling throughout the whole world, which contends that the western world is a civilised world and everything they do is always right. While everything that the third world's countries do is suspicious." Hussein responds: "[It] is not right." Hussein also discusses how Iraq might shield itself from inevitable negative fallout from the Bazoft affair in the British press. He says that Arabs "who have influence on editors in the British newspapers" should make clear that Thatcher "acted wrongly". He remarks: "She thought that Iraq is a piece of cake; that it is easy to interfere in our affairs and get a result that serves her electoral goals. So, what Thatcher has done is against British interests." He notes that appeals for mercy won't get anywhere. "Like any other country, Iraq has self-respect," he declares. At the end of the discussion, conducted just after midnight, Aziz picks up the phone. He dials the undersecretary at Iraq's foreign ministry. He tells him to rebuff Britain's ambassador in Baghdad and say that "we cannot receive him". He also makes clear that it is now too late for a British minister to travel to Baghdad to rescue Bazoft. "A visit in an atmosphere of threats and denunciations and statements of condemnation by the British foreign ministry will not be tolerated by Iraq," he says. John Mulholland, editor of the Observer, said yesterday: "Today's news confirms what the Observer has always suspected: that Saddam Hussein personally ordered the execution of Farzad Bazoft, a young journalist who dared to go in pursuit of a story. He died a horrible death without a fair trial or appeal after being made to confess to false charges of espionage. But he did not die in vain: his death focused worldwide attention on the barbarities of Saddam's regime."