Farzad Bazoft

Last updated

Farzad Bazoft
Born(1958-05-22)22 May 1958
Iran
Died15 March 1990(1990-03-15) (aged 31)
Iraq
OccupationJournalist
NationalityIranian
Period1980s-1990
SubjectMiddle East

Farzad Bazoft (Persian : فرزاد بازفت; 22 May 1958 – 15 March 1990) was an Iranian-born journalist who settled in the United Kingdom in the mid-1970s. He worked as a freelance reporter for The Observer . He was arrested by Iraqi authorities and executed in 1990 after being convicted of spying for Israel while working in Iraq.

Persian language Western Iranian language

Persian, also known by its endonym Farsi, is one of the Western Iranian languages within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European language family. It is a pluricentric language primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and some other regions which historically were Persianate societies and considered part of Greater Iran. It is written right to left in the Persian alphabet, a modified variant of the Arabic script.

Iran Islamic Republic in Western Asia

Iran, also called Persia, and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia. With over 81 million inhabitants, Iran is the world's 18th most populous country. Its territory spans 1,648,195 km2 (636,372 sq mi), making it the second largest country in the Middle East and the 17th largest in the world. Iran is bordered to the northwest by Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan, to the north by the Caspian Sea, to the northeast by Turkmenistan, to the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan, to the south by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, and to the west by Turkey and Iraq. Its central location in Eurasia and Western Asia, and its proximity to the Strait of Hormuz, give it geostrategic importance. Tehran is the capital, largest city, and leading economic and cultural center.

Journalist person who collects, writes and distributes news and other information

A journalist is a person who collects, writes, or distributes news or other current information to the public. A journalist's work is called journalism. A journalist can work with general issues or specialize in certain issues. However, most journalists tend to specialize, and by cooperating with other journalists, produce journals that span many topics. For example, a sports journalist covers news within the world of sports, but this journalist may be a part of a newspaper that covers many different topics.

Contents

Biography

Bazoft came to live in the United Kingdom in 1975 at the age of 16. [1] He was sentenced to 18 months jail after robbing the Heart of England Building Society in Brackley in 1981. The sentence included a deportation order, which Barzoft appealed against successfully in 1983. [2]

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom (UK), officially the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and sometimes referred to as Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. With an area of 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi), the United Kingdom is the 78th-largest sovereign state in the world. It is also the 22nd-most populous country, with an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

Heart of England Building Society was an English building society, which merged with the Cheltenham & Gloucester Building Society in 1993. The Cheltenham & Gloucester demutualised and was acquired by Lloyds Bank in 1995.

Brackley town in Northamptonshire, England

Brackley is a town in Northamptonshire, England, 22 miles (35 km) from Oxford and 20 miles (32 km) from Northampton. Historically a market town based on the wool and lace trade, it was built on the intersecting trade routes between London, Birmingham and the Midlands and Cambridge and Oxford. Brackley is close to Silverstone and home to the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team.

After finishing his education he began a career as a freelance journalist, contributing articles about the Middle East and, in particular, the Iran–Iraq War to news outlets including The Observer and the BBC. [1] In 1989 he was invited by the Iraqi government to come to Iraq along with other journalists to report on elections being held in Kurdistan. [1] [3] Before Bazoft set off, he learned about a mysterious explosion that had occurred on 19 September 1989 at the al-Iskandaria military complex, 50 kilometres (31 mi) south of Baghdad. [3] The heavy detonation was heard as far away as Baghdad. Despite Saddam Hussein's personal order to keep the matter secret, rumours began to spread that the accident happened in a rocket factory's assembly line, killing dozens of Egyptian technicians involved in Iraq's secret development of medium-range ballistic missiles.

Middle East region that encompasses Western Asia and Egypt

The Middle East is a transcontinental region centered on Western Asia, Turkey, and Egypt. Saudi Arabia is geographically the largest Middle Eastern nation while Bahrain is the smallest. The corresponding adjective is Middle Eastern and the derived noun is Middle Easterner. The term has come into wider usage as a replacement of the term Near East beginning in the early 20th century.

Iran–Iraq War 1980–1988 war between Iran and Iraq

The Iran–Iraq War was an armed conflict between Iran and Iraq, beginning on 22 September 1980, when Iraq invaded Iran, and ending on 20 August 1988, when Iran accepted the UN-brokered ceasefire. Iraq wanted to replace Iran as the dominant Persian Gulf state, and was worried that the 1979 Iranian Revolution would lead Iraq's Shi'ite majority to rebel against the Ba'athist government. The war also followed a long history of border disputes, and Iraq planned to annex the oil-rich Khuzestan Province and the east bank of the Arvand Rud.

<i>The Observer</i> weekly British newspaper, published on Sundays

The Observer is a British newspaper published on Sundays. In the same place on the political spectrum as its sister papers The Guardian and The Guardian Weekly, whose parent company Guardian Media Group Limited acquired it in 1993, it takes a social liberal or social democratic line on most issues. First published in 1791, it is the world's oldest Sunday newspaper.

Sensing a possible scoop, Bazoft headed for al-Hilla to search for details. He allegedly undertook his investigation with the approval of Iraqi officials. [1] Observer editor Donald Trelford said in response to Bazoft's arrest: "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." [3] Other western reporters were also interested in the story, [4] but a camera crew from Independent Television News was stopped by Iraqi authorities before they could reach the plant. [3] Bazoft got through, driven by British nurse Daphne Parish. [3] Bazoft also asked military personnel in Baghdad hotels and casinos what they knew and was reported by the hotel security to Iraqi Intelligence Service. [5]

Donald Trelford is a British journalist and academic, who was editor of The Observer newspaper from 1975 to 1993. He was also a director of The Observer from 1975 to 1993 and chief executive from 1992 to 1993.

The Iraqi Intelligence Service, also known as the Mukhabarat, General Directorate of Intelligence, or Party Intelligence, was the main state intelligence organization in Iraq under Saddam Hussein. The IIS was primarily concerned with international intelligence collection and analysis but also performed many activities inside Iraq.

Bazoft was arrested at Baghdad airport in September 1989, while waiting for his flight back to London. [1] [3] He had 34 photographs of the area of al-Hilla in his luggage, [5] and some soil from near the factory.[ citation needed ] After six weeks [4] in custody at the Abu Ghraib prison, and after beatings, [5] Bazoft was put in front of TV cameras on 1 November and confessed to being an Israeli agent. [1] Parish had also been arrested by Iraqi authorities. Before their trial, President Saddam Hussein wrote to British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, assuring her that Bazoft and Parish would get a fair trial. [6]

London Capital of the United Kingdom

London is the capital and largest city of both England and the United Kingdom, as well as the largest city within the European Union. Standing on the River Thames in the south-east of England, at the head of its 50-mile (80 km) estuary leading to the North Sea, London has been a major settlement for two millennia. Londinium was founded by the Romans. The City of London, London's ancient core − an area of just 1.12 square miles (2.9 km2) and colloquially known as the Square Mile − retains boundaries that follow closely its medieval limits. The City of Westminster is also an Inner London borough holding city status. Greater London is governed by the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.

Abu Ghraib prison is a prison complex in Abu Ghraib, Iraq, located 32 kilometers (20 mi) west of Baghdad. Abu Ghraib prison was opened in the 1950s and served as a maximum-security prison with torture, weekly executions, and vile living conditions. From the 1980s the prison was used by Saddam Hussein to hold political prisoners, developing a reputation for torture and extrajudicial killing, and was closed in 2002.

Following a one-day trial behind closed doors, lacking any conclusive evidence of his guilt, Bazoft was convicted and sentenced to death on 10 March 1990. [7] Parish was sentenced to 15 years in prison, [1] but she was released on 16 July 1990 following a plea for clemency from Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda. [8]

Zambia republic in southern Africa

Zambia, officially the Republic of Zambia, is a landlocked country in south-central Africa. It neighbours the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north, Tanzania to the north-east, Malawi to the east, Mozambique to the southeast, Zimbabwe and Botswana to the south, Namibia to the southwest, and Angola to the west. The capital city is Lusaka, located in the south-central part of Zambia. The population is concentrated mainly around Lusaka in the south and the Copperbelt Province to the northwest, the core economic hubs of the country.

Kenneth Kaunda First President of Zambia

Kenneth David Buchizya Kaunda, also known as KK, is a Zambian former politician who served as the first President of Zambia from 1964 to 1991.

International appeals for clemency for Bazoft had no effect. He was not permitted to appeal against his conviction or sentence, and was executed by hanging at 6:30am on 15 March 1990. [5] [9]

Aftermath

His body was placed in a rough wooden crate and despatched to his family in the United Kingdom. Documents seized during the invasion of Iraq in 2003 confirm that Saddam Hussein personally stressed the need for Bazoft's execution to take place before Ramadan (which began that year on 16 March), to quash attempts for clemency by the British government. [10]

Immediately after the execution, the British recalled their ambassador to Iraq [11] and cancelled all ministerial visits, though the Conservative government was not unanimous on the response, with Conservative MPs Rupert Allason and Anthony Beaumont-Dark supporting the Iraqi government response, and Terry Dicks even publicly stating on the day before the execution that Bazoft "deserved to be hanged". [12] Bazoft's story nonetheless triggered widespread outrage in the West and contributed to international isolation of Saddam's regime. Months after the incident, on 2 August 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait, sparking the first Gulf War.

In 2003, The Observer tracked down Kadem Askar, the colonel in the Iraqi intelligence service who conducted the initial interrogation of Bazoft. He admitted that he knew Bazoft was innocent, but that he was powerless to obstruct Saddam Hussein's orders to have him convicted and executed. [5] That Hussein himself ordered the execution of Bazoft is confirmed in transcripts of taped meetings made by the Hussein regime and seized during the 2003 invasion. [10]

The release of papers from 1990 at the beginning of 2017 revealed that the Thatcher government decided to take no action against Iraq out of an anxiety that doing so might risk British exports. Norman Lamont, chief secretary to the treasury in 1990, told The Observer: "There was some argument about how British was he – he did have an Iranian passport and that was the decisive thing: he wasn’t a British citizen". Bazoft qualified for British residency. [13]

Iranian state radio IRIB only referred to the case as "the annoyance of UK government of the execution of English journalist Farzad Bazoft". Later Iranian religiously conservative daily Kayhan sarcastically wrote of an Iranian expat thinker that "There was only one martyr in Iran–Iraq War and that was Farzad Bazoft."[ citation needed ] By this, the newspaper wanted to show that Iranian diaspora who are disfavored by the rulers of Iran, undervalue the people who were killed in the war in defense of the country.[ citation needed ]

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References

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Donald Trelford (14 March 2010). "Executed by Saddam Hussein: the death of Observer reporter Farzad Bazoft, 20 years on". The Observer. Retrieved 3 September 2011.
  2. Whitney, Craig R. (17 March 1990). "Reporter Hanged in Iraq Had Once Robbed Bank". New York Times. Retrieved 19 December 2018.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "1990: Observer journalist executed in Iraq". BBC News. 10 March 1990. Retrieved 3 September 2011.
  4. 1 2 Leader (18 March 1990). "Farzad Bazoft". The Observer. Retrieved 3 September 2011.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 Ed Vulliamy (18 May 2003). "Proved innocent". The Observer. Retrieved 3 September 2011.
  6. Higham, Nick (30 December 2016). "Cabinet files reveal plan to shoot nuclear intruders". BBC News. Retrieved 30 December 2016.
  7. Robert Fisk: The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East, p. 169, ISBN   978-1-4000-7517-1
  8. "Iraq frees British nurse in spy case". New Strait Times. Reuters. 17 July 1990. Retrieved 3 September 2011.
  9. Donald Trelford (18 May 2003). "My colleague was simply a journalist after a scoop". The Observer. Retrieved 3 September 2011.
  10. 1 2 Luke Harding (26 October 2011). "Saddam Hussein ordered execution of journalist Farzad Bazoft, records reveal". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 October 2011.
  11. "Butchery in Baghdad". New York Times. 16 March 1990. Retrieved 3 September 2011.
  12. "Farzad Bazoft". The Guardian. 18 March 1990.
  13. Norton-Taylor, Richard; McVeigh, Tracy (1 January 2017). "'It would be bad for our interests': why Thatcher ignored the murder of an Observer journalist". The Observer. Retrieved 5 January 2017.