Saddam may hang within hours, officials say


December 30, 2006

Saddam may hang within hours, officials say
By Mariam Karouny

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Saddam Hussein may be hanged within hours, Iraqi officials said, as the prime minister met U.S. officials to determine whether the execution could go ahead before a week-long Muslim holiday.

The meeting was continuing into the small hours of Saturday with no decision yet taken, an aide to Prime Minister Nuri al- Maliki told Reuters. He denied Iraqi media reports the execution was set for between 5:30 and 6 a.m. (0230-0300 GMT).

Maliki has already given an execution order, with approval from the president and justice minister, a close ally of the prime minister, Sami al-Askari, told Reuters.

But the feast of Eid al-Adha from noon on Saturday could delay the hanging if final arrangements, including the site of the gallows and fate of the body, could not be agreed with the Americans in the coming hours, he added.

“If it’s not tonight, it will be after Eid,” Askari said, raising the prospect of Saddam mounting the scaffold at dawn.

Such a move would delight Maliki’s Shi’ites but may anger many of Saddam’s resentful Sunni minority, as well as some Kurds who were hoping to see him convicted of genocide against them.

Defence lawyer Issam Jhazzawi told Reuters Saddam’s exiled first wife and daughters were bracing for his imminent death: "The family are praying for him every minute and are calling on God that He let his soul rest in peace among the martyrs.

Several officials said they had been told to gather early in the fortified, U.S.-defended Green Zone government compound in central Baghdad that was once Saddam’s palace complex.

A television station run by Maliki’s party said a gallows was ready on a parade ground dominated by a triumphal arch – formed of crossed swords held in hands modelled on Saddam’s own.

But Iraq’s penal code – and religious sensibilities – suggest the hanging could not take place during Eid, which coincides with the haj pilgrimage to Mecca and ends on Jan. 6.

Seeking an 11th hour reprieve, defence lawyers asked a U.S. federal court to order a halt to the execution because Saddam is a defendant in a civil case in Washington.

Earlier, another defence attorney said he was told Saddam was already in Iraqi hands, although U.S. officials denied that.

In any case, a senior Iraqi official told Reuters, U.S. troops would give Saddam up only “when he climbs the gallows”.

“He may be hanged tonight,” a senior cabinet official told Reuters after a day of conflicting accounts of legal procedures after the appeals court this week upheld a Nov. 5 conviction for crimes against humanity over the killings of 148 Shi’ite men.

The timing is up to the government but appeal court judge Munir Haddad said he expected a hanging to go ahead on Saturday, along with the deaths of Saddam’s half-brother Barzan and former judge Awad al-Bander, both also convicted with him.


With millions in Iraq’s now dominant Shi’ite Muslim majority thirsting for revenge for Saddam’s three decades of oppression, U.S. officials have been concerned since they captured Saddam three years ago to ensure he is treated with judicial propriety.

U.S. troops are also on alert for trouble from insurgents among Saddam’s Sunni minority. While there were some protests at November’s verdict by a U.S.-sponsored court, few Sunnis have deep feelings about the fate of the fallen strongman.

Ethnic Kurds, who also suffered badly, had pushed for a delay until Saddam can be convicted in a continuing trial for genocide against them. But Maliki, whose grip over his fractious national unity coalition has been questioned, appears to have won the day to push through Shi’ite demands for a quick death.

The premier earlier said there should be “no delay”.

Saddam has been held at a U.S. base near Baghdad airport.

An execution at the start of Eid would be highly symbolic. The feast marks the sacrifice the prophet Abraham was prepared to make when God ordered him to kill his son and many Shi’ites could regard Saddam’s death as a gift from God. Such symbolism could further anger Sunnis, resentful of new Shi’ite power.

Saddam was found guilty over the killing, torture and other crimes against the Shi’ite population of the town of Dujail after Dawa militants tried to assassinate him there in 1982.

Defence lawyer Khalil al-Dulaimi said he had been told to arrange to collect Saddam’s personal effects – a move another defence lawyer said indicated he could die on Saturday.

Saddam, who said in court he had no fear of dying, had a farewell meeting with two of his half-brothers on Thursday, his lawyers said, adding the fallen dictator was in high spirits.

Saddam’s conviction was hailed by U.S. President George W. Bush as a triumph for the democracy he promised to foster in Iraq after the 2003 invasion. With U.S. public support for the war slumping as the number of American dead rapidly approaches 3,000, Washington is likely to welcome the death of Saddam.

International human rights groups criticised the year-long trial, during which three defence lawyers were killed and a chief judge resigned complaining of political interference.

(Additional reporting by Suleiman al-Khalidi in Dubai and Alastair Macdonald in Baghdad)

Although I think that Bush should get the rope too, I don’t believe in killings and capital punishments. Its highly unimaginable to be faced with death - a forced death. It inflicts unimaginable terror to the victims. (Ie. Bush, who openly practices double standards, is also part of the terrorist community and worse yet, his accepted by many). Plus, does such punishments deter crimes from being committed? NOPE