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Farzad Bazoft
Born May 22, 1958(1958-05-22)
Iran
Died March 15, 1990 (aged 31)
Iraq
Occupation Journalist
Nationality Iranian-British
Writing period 1980s-1990
Subjects Middle East

Farzad Bazoft (May 22, 1958 – March 15, 1990) was an Iranian-born journalist who settled in the United Kingdom in the mid-1980s. He worked as a freelance reporter for The Observer. He was executed by the Iraqi authorities in 1990 after being convicted of spying for Israel while working in Iraq.

Bazoft relocated to the United Kingdom around 1985. He wrote a number of articles on the Middle East before being invited by the Iraqi government, in 1989, to come to Iraq along with other journalists to report on the reconstruction in Iraq following the war against Iran. Before Bazoft set off, he learned about a mysterious explosion which occurred on September 19, 1989 at the al-Iskandaria military complex, 30 miles south of Baghdad. The heavy detonation was heard as far as Baghdad itself. 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.

Smelling a likely scoop, Bazoft headed for al-Hilla to search for details. He allegedly undertook his investigation with the approval of Iraqi officials. Observer editor Donald Trelford said in response to later events: "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." Other western reporters were also interested in the story, but a camera crew from Independent Television News was stopped by Iraqi authorities before they could reach the plant. Bazoft got through, driven by British nurse Daphne Parish.

Bazoft was arrested at Baghdad airport in September 1989, while waiting for his flight back to London. He was found to have 34 photographs of the area of al-Hilla in his luggage, along with some soil from near the factory. After 6 weeks in custody at the Abu Ghraib prison, Bazoft was put in front of the TV cameras on November 1 and confessed to being an Israeli agent. 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.

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

International appeals for clemency for Bazoft had no effect. He was not permitted to appeal his conviction or sentencing and was executed by hanging at 6:30am on March 15, 1990. His body was placed in a rough wooden crate and despatched to his family in Britain.

Immediately after the execution, the British ambassador was ordered to leave Iraq and all ministerial visits were cancelled. Bazoft's story triggered a widespread outrage of the West and contributed to international isolation of Saddam's regime. Months later, on August 2, 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.

References

  1. ^ Robert Fisk: The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East, p. 169, ISBN 184115007X
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