Saddam gave order to execute Observer reporter

The former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, personally ordered the swift execution of Farzad Bazoft, an Iranian-born freelance journalist working for The Observer in early 1990, shortly before the first Gulf War, even as the Government of Margaret Thatcher was scrambling to win him clemency, new recordings have revealed.

Just how hopeless were Britain's efforts to intervene is clear from passages pulled from an archive of conversations between Hussein and members of his inner circle first seized by the US after the fall of Baghdad in 2003, parts of which now have been released to researchers.

More broadly, the transcripts, spanning many years, show also how hapless Saddam was in misreading diplomatic realities and in allowing paranoia to cloud his thinking.

Mr Bazoft was taken into custody after reporting a story for his newspaper about an unexplained explosion at a military complex south of Baghdad. The Iraqi leadership seemingly drew the conclusion, which was erroneous, that the reporter was spying in Iraq on behalf of Israel. The case drew worldwide attention and winning back Mr Bazoft's freedom became a top priority of British diplomacy.

The notion Hussein would have any concern for the British pleadings was misplaced, however. The recordings show him voicing frustration that after Mr Bazoft's conviction it might take a full month for him to be executed by hanging. "A whole month?" he exploded discussing the case with aides. "I say we execute him in Ramadan, and this will be the punishment for Margaret Thatcher." The reporter was hanged on 15 March 1990, before Ramadan and just six months after his arrest.

The transcripts also show Saddam scoffing at efforts made by Mrs Thatcher to recruit King Hussein of Jordan to broker a solution to the case. "A mediator! Only God can mediate for him," Saddam said, according to the transcripts, the release of which was reported by The New York Times. "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?"

The episode came at a critical time when Iraq was picking itself up from the catastrophic eight-year conflict with Iran and was only a few months away from its invasion of Kuwait.

Among the bungles of Hussein illuminated by the transcripts was his misunderstanding of America's likely reaction once that invasion got under way, namely it would not interfere.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

Guru Careers: Senior Account Manager / SAM

£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: A Senior Account Manager / SAM is needed to join the ...

Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Manager (EMEA) - City, London

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Manager...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine