Terrorist given stand-up lessons

Just hope he doesn't bomb...

Convicted Al Qaeda terrorist Zia Ul Haq has been receiving lessons in stand-up comedy.

Justice Secretary Jack Straw has now pulled the plug on the eight-day workshop at Whitemoor prison, after it was revealed by the press.

A total of 18 maximum-security prisoners were enrolled on the course, which cost the Cambridgeshire jail around £8,000, including 29-year-old Ul Haq, who was jailed for 18 years last year for conspiring to blow up buildings across Britain.

Mr Straw said: ‘As soon as I heard about the course at HMP Whitemoor, I instructed that it must be immediately cancelled. It is totally unacceptable.

‘Senior managers in the Prison Service, who were also unaware of the course, take the same view as me.’

He added that education was as essential part of prison life, but said the course ‘must be appropriate in every prison… What happens inside the prison gates has ramifications outside.’

At the end of the course, the convicts would have been given certificates and the chance to put their skills into practice in a show planned for fellow prisoners.

The courses are run by The Comedy School and include lessons in stand-up, comic drama, improvisation and scriptwriting.

The charity did not respond to a request for comment, but its director Keith Palmer has previously said: ‘We use comedy as an education and rehabilitation tool through humour. It's something everyone enjoys, it's non-threatening and it's all inclusive - anyone can be involved

‘While they are learning something new that is of interest to them it allows them to escape for awhile from the reality of prison and by the end of it I think they realise how much they have learned about themselves.’

Published: 22 Nov 2008

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