London, Nov 21 : US Justice Secretary Jack Straw has reportedly opposed an orientation programme launched in a top-security prison to train dreaded Al Qaeda terrorists into stage comedians.
The course continued for three days at the Whitemoor prison, which houses three 21/7 bombers and M25 road rage killer Kenny Noye, before Straw intervened to stop it.
The terrorists were given lessons in stand-up, comic drama, improvisation and scriptwriting. And, once they "graduated" they were due to get a certificate and display their new talents with a comedy show for fellow lags and guards.
But, last night Straw described the course as "totally unacceptable". He also vetoed a plan by the Category A Cambridgeshire prison to set up its own comedy club.
"As soon as I heard about it, I instructed it must be immediately cancelled. Senior managers in the Prison Service, who were also unaware of it, take the same view. Prisons should be places of punishment and reform. Providing educational and constructive pursuits is essential but the types of courses and the manner in which they are delivered must be appropriate," The Sun quoted him as saying.
Straw was backed by Shadow Justice Secretary Nick Herbert.
But, Comedy School founder Keith Palmer, a tutor on the course, said his non-profit making organisation "uses the arts as an educational and rehabilitative tool".