Saddam's execution 'deplorable', says Prescott

Click to follow
Indy Politics

The manner of Saddam Hussein's execution was "deplorable", Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott said today.

Mr Prescott said that leaked footage of Saddam's death was "totally unacceptable" and those responsible should be condemned.

His comments - which are likely to prove controversial - come after mobile phone footage of the former Iraqi dictator's last moments showed that he exchanged taunts and insults with witnesses at his execution.

The grainy images showed verbal exchanges between Saddam, witnesses, and guards, including people chanting the name of radical Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and telling Saddam to "go to hell".

It is not known who filmed the footage or whether its release was officially sanctioned.

Prime Minister Tony Blair has been criticised by Labour MPs for refusing to make an official statement about the execution.

Glenda Jackson branded his lack of public reaction "amazing" while Peter Kilfoyle said it was "yet another error in a long catalogue" on Iraq.

Mr Blair has previously underlined Britain's opposition to the death penalty but stressed it was for the Iraqis to decide the fate of their former president.

Downing Street insisted that Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett "spoke on behalf of the whole Government".

She said Saddam had been "held to account", but added: "We do not support the use of the death penalty ... we advocate an end to the death penalty worldwide, regardless of the individual or the crime."

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme about the execution, Mr Prescott said: "I think the manner was quite deplorable really. I don't think one can endorse in any way that, whatever your views about capital punishment."

He added: "Frankly, to get the kind of recorded messages coming out is totally unacceptable and I think whoever is involved and responsible for it should be ashamed of themselves."

Challenged that the Iraqi government was responsible, he replied: "If they are responsible, I pass my comment and that's where I stand."

He continued: "I am just making the point that, in fact, those circumstances of the hanging of Saddam... without doubt, to have those kinds of comments is unacceptable and whoever is responsible should be condemned for it."

Asked if ministers had conveyed this to the authorities in Baghdad, Mr Prescott said: "I think we have made it clear what the Government's position is on the death penalty and that has been communicated as Margaret Beckett has said."

In tense exchanges, Mr Prescott refused to discuss the matter further, insisting: "I couldn't have given you a clearer answer.

"I am sure it will be controversial but I have given you my view. I don't think we can say any more than that."