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Speculation grows over date of Saddam hanging

Iraqi Justice Ministry dismisses suggestion that execution may occur as early as today

Speculation grows over date of Saddam hanging

An Iraqi official denied yesterday suggestions that Saddam Hussein could be hanged as early as today while lawyers for the ousted dictator said he was preparing for his execution.
As speculation swirled about the timing of the execution, Iraq's Justice Ministry denied a comment from a defense lawyer that it had taken custody of Saddam from the U.S. military.
"It's none of the Americans' business to decide when," a senior Justice Ministry official said, dismissing a suggestion from a senior U.S. official that Saddam could hang as early as today.
He also said there would be no execution before January 26, 30 days after the sentence was upheld. But ministers say there are conflicting views in cabinet over that timing and whether it requires the president to sign a death warrant.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, in his first comments on the issue, said yesterday there could be no going back on the sentence passed last month and "no delay" in carrying it out.
An aide confirmed the content of the remarks, reported by state television, and said he made them to relatives of victims of Saddam's oppression.
Those who opposed the hanging were insulting those who had suffered, the newsflash quoted al-Maliki as saying, adding that no one could reverse the sentence. Several officials this week have highlighted that, unlike in other capital crimes, the president cannot pardon those convicted of crimes against humanity.
Al-Maliki, from the Shiite Muslim majority oppressed under Saddam, said last month he wanted Saddam hanged this year for the killings, torture and other crimes against the Shiite population of the town of Dujail in the 1980s.
But some members of Saddam's Sunni minority say an execution may increase alienation among their rebellious community. Some Kurds would also like to see Saddam convicted of genocide in the Kurdish north. That second trial is due to resume on January 8.
Khalil al-Dulaimi, who led Saddam's defense team until he was sentenced on November 5, told Reuters: "The Americans called me and asked me to pick up the personal effects."
An appeals court on Tuesday upheld Saddam's death sentence for crimes against humanity and said he should hang within 30 days.
On Thursday, Saddam was allowed to see two of his brothers, who are also in detention at a U.S. base near Baghdad. A lawyer said the former president was in high spirits.
One defense lawyer, who declined to be identified, said Saddam had been handed over by U.S. forces to Iraqi government custody. Deputy Justice Minister Bosho Ibrahim told Reuters: "This is not true. He is still with the Americans."
U.S. military spokesmen said they had nothing to add to a statement late on Thursday that he was still in their control.
Ibrahim also dismissed a remark by a senior U.S. official who said there were plans to send Saddam to the gallows as early as today. The ministry, which is in charge of implementing court rulings, would not execute Saddam before January 26, he said.
U.S. military and embassy spokesmen dealing with the issue have stressed a need for secrecy over the arrangements.
Although legally in Iraqi custody, U.S. troops physically keep guard over Saddam. And although Iraqis will carry out the execution, U.S. and Iraqi officials say, it also seems likely U.S. forces will stay on hand throughout for fear that opponents of the former leader could turn it into a public spectacle.
Iraqi officials backed away on Thursday from suggestions they would definitely hang him within a month, in line with a 30-deadline apparently set out in the statues of the tribunal. A cabinet minister also told Reuters a week-long religious holiday ending only on January 7 would stall any execution.
One of Saddam's lawyers said he bade farewell to two of his brothers on Thursday in a rare prison meeting.
"He was in very high spirits and clearly readying himself," Badie Aref, told Reuters after the 69-year-old former leader met half-brothers Watban and Sabawi, who are also both held at the U.S. army's Camp Cropper near Baghdad airport.


Updated : 2021-03-03 07:29 GMT+08:00