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1990: Observer 'spy' sentenced to die

VIDEO : Bazoft confesses on Iraqi TV

A court in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, has imposed the death sentence on The Observer journalist Farzad Bazoft.

He has been convicted of spying for Israel while working on a story about an explosion at a weapons complex 30 miles (48km) south of the capital.

The British nurse, Daphne Parish, who is said to have driven him to the site has been jailed for 15 years.

The pair were arrested last September after visiting the military establishment.

Mr Bazoft, who came to live in Britain from Iran in the early 1980s, had written a number of articles on the Middle East for The Observer newspaper. He was subsequently invited by the Iraqi government to join a journalists' trip to examine reconstruction work after the war with Iran.

But on the day he flew out, there were reports of an explosion at the Al-Iskandrai plant, said to be at the centre of Iraq's development of medium-range missiles. Hundreds were reported to have been killed.

The Observer newspaper commissioned Mr Bazoft to write a report. Independent Television News was also interested in the explosion, but a camera crew was stopped from reaching the plant. Mr Bazoft, travelling with Mrs Parish, got through.

He was picked up at Baghdad airport, waiting for a flight back to London.

Observer editor Donald Trelford said: "Farzad Bazoft is not a spy. He is a reporter who went to do a story. He said in advance the story he was going to do.

"He told the Baghdad government where he wanted to go... This is not the action of a spy, this is the action of a reporter."

The so-called spies were tried behind closed doors. Mr Bazoft had earlier been filmed making a confession - his colleagues say it was false.

Foreign Office Minister William Waldegrave met the Iraqi Deputy Foreign Minister, Nizar Hamdoun, before today's hearing to demand a full and fair trial. Now he says he will be pressing for clemency.

He said: "Our objective now is to concentrate on the next few hours to try to get the death sentence lifted and to appeal on humanitarian grounds for an urgent review of the sentences."

In Context
Before their trial, President Saddam Hussein had written to the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, assuring her Farzad Bazoft and Daphne Parish would get a fair hearing.

International appeals for clemency fell on deaf ears. Mr Bazoft was hanged on 15 March 1990.

He told a British envoy shortly before his death that he was "simply a reporter after a scoop".

There was international condemnation of the execution - but not surprise. Saddam Hussein's regime was becoming well known for its brutality.

The British ambassador to Iraq was ordered to leave and all ministerial visits cancelled.

Daphne Parish was released on 16 July 1990.

On 2 August 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait, starting the Gulf War.


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