Prescott condemns Saddam execution videos

John Prescott condemns Saddam Hussein execution videos
John Prescott condemns Saddam Hussein execution videos

John Prescott has described films depicting the execution of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein as "quite deplorable".

The deputy prime minister said it was "totally unacceptable" for recordings, presumably including the two and a half minute mobile phone video currently circulating on the internet, to be made and said those responsible should be "ashamed".

His comments, made while Tony Blair is out of the country and while he is officially the most senior member of the government, are the strongest reaction yet to the hanging of Saddam in the early hours of Saturday morning.

In her statement at the weekend, foreign secretary Margaret Beckett reiterated Britain's opposition to the death penalty, but said ministers "respect" the Iraqi government's decision to hang Saddam "as that of a sovereign nation".

The latest footage of the execution shows the former leader being taunted by hangmen and witnesses, with one telling him to "go to hell". In a controversial event omitted from the official silent recording, the trapdoor is released before he finishes his prayers.

Speaking on Today, Mr Prescott said of the execution: "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."

Presumably in reference to the latest video, he continued: "Frankly, to get the kind of recorded messages coming out is totally unacceptable. I think whoever's involved and responsible for it should be ashamed of themselves."

Asked whether he was talking about the Iraqi government, he said only: "If they are responsible, I'll pass my comments on and that's where I stand."

Mr Blair has come under fire for failing to issue any personal reaction to Saddam's death. In his new year's statement issued today, he only refers to Iraq in a pledge to "see through the battles of Iraq and Afghanistan".

News agencies report that an inquiry has now been launched by the Iraqi government into the way the execution of Saddam was carried out.


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