Thu, Jan 04, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Britain's deputy PM calls Saddam's end `deplorable'

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

The manner of late Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's execution was "deplorable" and could not be endorsed, British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott said on Tuesday, breaking the British government's silence over the insults and sectarian chants heard as the former Iraqi leader went to the gallows.

Prescott -- in charge of the government while Prime Minister Tony Blair is on holiday -- admitted that his condemnation of the manner of the hanging would prove controversial. He was speaking on BBC radio after a grainy video of the execution, apparently filmed on a mobile phone, revealed verbal exchanges between Saddam, wit-nesses and guards, including people chanting the name of the radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and telling Saddam to "go to hell."

The Iraqi government had previously released soundless film suggesting the execution had been dignified and had not involved any humiliation or sectarian insults. It has since launched an inquiry into how the hanging came to be unofficially filmed by someone among the 20-or-so people present, turning it into a gruesome spectacle that has inflamed sectarian anger.

"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," Prescott said. "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 said: "If they are responsible, I pass my comment and that's where I stand."

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