Saddam's Death Sentence

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Saddam death sentence 'within 30 days'
Associated Press - December 26th 2006.

BAGHDAD – Iraq’s highest appeals court on Tuesday upheld Saddam Hussein’s death sentence and said he must be hanged within 30 days for the killing of 148 Shiites in the central city of Dujail.

The sentence “must be implemented within 30 days,” chief judge Aref Shahin said. “From tomorrow, any day could be the day of implementation.”

On Nov. 5, an Iraqi court sentenced Saddam to the gallows for ordering the 1982 killings following an attempt on his life.

Under Iraqi law, the appeals court decision must be ratified by President Jalal Talabani and Iraq’s two vice presidents. Talabani opposes the death penalty but has in the past deputized a vice president to sign an execution order on his behalf — a substitute that was legally accepted.

Raed Juhi, a spokesman for the High Tribunal court that convicted Saddam, said the judicial system would ensure that Saddam is executed even if Talabani and the two vice presidents do not ratify the decision.

“We’ll implement the verdict by the power of the law,” Juhi said. He did not elaborate.

The appeals court also upheld death sentences for Barzan Ibrahim, Saddam’s half brother and intelligence chief during the Dujail killings, and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, head of Iraq’s Revolutionary Court, which issued the death sentences against the Dujail residents.

The appeals court concluded the sentence of life imprisonment given to former vice president Taha Yassin Ramadan was too lenient and returned his file to the High Tribunal. Ramadan was convicted of premeditated murder in the Dujail case.

“We demand that he be sentenced to death,” said Shahin, the appeals judge.

At his trial, Saddam argued that the Dujail residents who were killed had been convicted in a legitimate Iraqi court for trying to assassinate him in 1982.

The televised trial was watched throughout Iraq and the Middle East as much for theater as for substance. Saddam was ejected from the courtroom repeatedly for political harangues, and his half brother once showed up in long underwear and sat with his back to the judges.

The nine-month trial inflamed Iraq’s political divide, however, and three defense lawyers and a witness were murdered during the course of its 39 sessions.

Saddam is in the midst of a second trial charging him with genocide and other crimes during a 1987-88 military crackdown on Kurds in northern Iraq. An estimated 180,000 Kurds died during the operation.

Saddam was found hiding with an unfired pistol in a hole in the ground near his home village north of Baghdad in December 2003, eight months after he fled the capital ahead of advancing American troops.

Saddam's letter urges Iraqis not to hate
By Christopher Torchia - Associated Press - December 27th 2006.

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Saddam Hussein called on Iraqis not to hate the U.S.-led forces that invaded Iraq in 2003 in a farewell letter posted on a Web site Wednesday, a day after an appeals court upheld the former dictator's death sentence and ordered him to be hanged within one month.

One of Saddam's attorneys, Issam Ghazzawi, confirmed to The Associated Press in Jordan that the letter was authentic, saying it was written by Saddam on Nov. 5 _ the day he was convicted by an Iraqi tribunal for ordering the killings of scores of Shiite Muslims in the city of Dujail in 1982.

"I call on you not to hate because hate does not leave space for a person to be fair and it makes you blind and closes all doors of thinking," the letter said.

Ghazzawi said the letter was released on Tuesday and published on Saddam's former Baath Party's Web site on Wednesday.

The deposed leader said he was writing the letter because his lawyers had told him the Iraqi High Tribunal which tried his case would give him an opportunity to say a final word.

"But that court and its chief judge did not give us the chance to say a word, and issued its verdict without explanation and read out the sentence _ dictated by the invaders _ without presenting the evidence," Saddam wrote.

"Dear faithful people," Saddam added, "I say goodbye to you, but I will be with the merciful God who helps those who take refuge in him and who will never disappoint any honest believer."

The letter was released as Saddam's last legal means of avoiding execution came under question. A spokesman for President Jalal Talabani said Wednesday the appeals court order upholding the death sentence might not require Talabani's approval to carry out the execution.

Iraqi officials had said such a decision must be ratified by Talabani and Iraq's two vice presidents. But presidential spokesman Hiwa Osman said that was not necessarily the case.

"Some people believe there is no need for his approval," Osman said. "We still have to hear from the court as to how the procedure can be carried out."

Meanwhile, some Saddam loyalists threatened to retaliate if the ousted Iraqi leader is executed, warning in a posting on the same Baath Party Web site that carried Saddam's letter they would target U.S. interests anywhere.

"The Baath and the resistance are determined to retaliate, with all means and everywhere, to harm America and its interests if it commits this crime," the statement said, referring to Baath fighters as "the resistance."

The Baath Party was disbanded after U.S.-led forces overthrew Saddam in 2003. The Web site is believed to be run from Yemen, where a number of exiled members of the party are based.

In its ruling Tuesday, the appeals court said Saddam must be hanged within 30 days for his role in the Dujail killings. The appeals court also affirmed death sentences for two of Saddam's co-defendants, including his half brother. It ruled that life imprisonment for a third was too lenient and demanded he too be sentenced to death.

Some Iraqis said Saddam should be hanged immediately, but others feared Iraq's bloodletting could escalate if the former dictator is executed at a time when sectarian attacks are already on the rise.

"Executing him now is dangerous. The situation is very bad. Things need to be calmer," said Saadia Mohamed Majed, a 60-year-old Shiite in Baghdad who wants the penalty to be postponed for at least three years. Shiites endured persecution under Saddam and his fellow Sunni Arab leaders, and many are eager to remove a symbol of the old regime.

The court's decision came on a particularly bloody day in Baghdad, when at least 54 Iraqis died in bombings and police discovered 49 apparent victims of sectarian reprisal killings.

Many Baghdad neighborhoods were jittery on Wednesday amid fears that Sunni Arab insurgents would target Shiite areas in revenge attacks. There was a heavy police presence in the downtown area of Karrada, and parents picked up their children from a school after reports of a car bomb in the area.

Violence appeared to be relatively minimal, though, with one car bomb explosion killing eight civilians and wounding 10 near an Iraqi army checkpoint in the capital, police said.

Two Latvian soldiers were also killed and three were wounded when a roadside bomb exploded under their Humvee, the Latvian Defense Ministry said. Latvia has about 130 troops serving with a Polish contingent in Diwaniyah, 80 miles south of Baghdad.

Saddam's defense lawyers, who are based in Amman, Jordan, urged Arab governments and the United Nations to intervene to stop the execution.

"Otherwise, all may be participating in what is going on, either actually or due to their silence in face of the crimes, which are being committed in Iraq in the name of democracy," the lawyers said in an e-mail statement to The Associated Press.

The statement signed by "the Defense Committee for President Saddam Hussein" said the court's rejection of Saddam's appeal was part of the "continued shedding of pure Iraqi blood by the current regime in Iraq, which (is) directly connected with the American occupation."

An expert on war crimes speculated the sentence might be carried out very quickly.

"I won't be surprised if there's just an announcement in several days saying the sentence has been carried out. The ruling says the sentence has to be carried out within 30 days, but it doesn't say you need to wait," said Michael Scharf, a professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

Human Rights Watch, which opposes the execution, said the law creating the Iraqi High Tribunal mandates that death sentences can never be commuted. However, international law says that when a death sentence is given, there must be an opportunity for it to be commuted, the group said.

"There's some real confusion as to who has the authority to ratify the death sentence," said Richard Dicker, director of the group's International Justice Program.

The legal maneuvering in Baghdad was of little concern in the northern Kurdish city of Irbil, where people who suffered under Saddam's brutal rule celebrated the decision upholding his death sentence.

Saddam is currently in the midst of another trial, charged with genocide and other crimes during a 1987-88 military crackdown on Kurds in northern Iraq. An estimated 180,000 Kurds died during the operation. That trial was adjourned until Jan. 8, but experts have said the trial of Saddam's co-defendants is likely to continue even if he is executed.

Saddam is being held at Camp Cropper, an American military prison close to Baghdad's airport. U.S. military officials did not say whether the former dictator will now be turned over to the Iraqis in anticipation of his execution.

Saddam was captured while hiding in a hole in the ground near his home village north of Baghdad in December 2003, eight months after he fled the capital ahead of advancing American troops.

Appeal to not to carry out Saddam's death sentence
Thiruvananthapuram - December 27th 2006.

The Kerala Assembly today unanimously appealed to the Iraq administration not to carry out the death sentence given to former President Saddam Hussein.

The resolution, adopted unanimously at the special session of the Assembly, said a court appointed by the aggressive forces had pronounced the judgment on Saddam disregarding the opinions expressed by legal experts.

Ethnic and communal clashes were likely to escalate in Iraq if the sentence was carried out, Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan said in the House.

The move to execute the former President of Iraq would be condemned by peace-loving people all over the world. The Indian Government should initiate measures to see that the death sentence on Saddam was not executed, the Chief Minister said.

Bush: Saddam deserves 'ultimate penalty'
Associated Press - December 17th 2003.

Saddam Hussein deserves the "ultimate penalty" for his crimes, US President George W. Bush said Tuesday, putting the United States sharply at odds with Europe and the United Nations which adamantly oppose the death penalty.

A day after saying his own views about Saddam's fate were unimportant, Bush decided to step forward and publicly state his opinion, a position that could carry considerable influence in determining the punishment of the deposed Iraqi leader. The administration blames him for killing 300,000 people.

"Let's just see what penalty he gets, but I think he ought to receive the ultimate penalty ... for what he has done to his people," Bush said. "I mean, he is a torturer, a murderer, they had rape rooms. This is a disgusting tyrant who deserves justice, the ultimate justice."

Bush made his comments in an interview with ABC News' Diane Sawyer, and the network released a transcript of the remarks.

Even while expressing his views, Bush said Saddam's punishment "will be decided not by the president of the United States but by the citizens of Iraq in one form or another." He also said that Iraqis are "capable of conducting the trial themselves."

Bush has long been a proponent of capital punishment. During his six years as governor of Texas, 152 convicts were put to death.

In the case of Saddam, the death penalty issue could cause friction between the United States and Europe. All 15 member nations of the European Union have abolished capital punishment, and they often encourage other countries — most notably the United States — to abolish it.

But it is unclear how strenuously they would object to a death sentence for Saddam.

Britain's top representative in Iraq, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, said his country would not participate in a tribunal or legal process that could lead to execution. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan also has said the world body would not support bringing Saddam before a tribunal that might sentence him to death.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair's spokesman said that although Britain opposes the death penalty, it would have to accept an Iraqi decision to execute.

Members of the U.S.-appointed Iraq Governing Council have predicted a quick trial and a quick execution for Saddam. The U.S. occupation authority suspended using the death penalty, and Iraqi officials have said they will decide whether to reinstate it when a transitional government assumes sovereignty, scheduled on July 1.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri Fedotov, whose country opposed the war, said only Iraqis could decide Saddam's fate.

Diego Ojeda, EU spokesman on external relations, wouldn't comment specifically on Saddam, but said, "We believe there are no circumstances that can justify the death penalty."

Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who supported the U.S.-led war, also emphasized his country's opposition to the death penalty.

But Australia's Prime Minister John Howard, who sent troops to fight in Iraq, said he would support the death penalty for Iraq. "If it were imposed, absolutely," he said.

Saddam: Execution Will Martyr Me
Wednesday, 27 Dec 2006.

Saddam Hussein, who is facing execution within days, has offered himself as "a sacrifice" and urged Iraqis to unite against US forces.

The deposed dictator's appeal against a death sentence handed down for his role in the murders of 148 people in the northern town of Dujail in 1982 has been rejected.

It was initially thought the sentence would have to be rubber-stamped by President Jalal Talabani, but officials have signalled that may not be the case.

He is set to be hanged within 30 days, but the execution could take place much earlier.

In a letter written before the sentence was passed, Saddam wrote: "Here I offer myself in sacrifice. If God almighty wishes, it (my soul) will take me where he orders to be with the martyrs.

"If my soul goes down this path (of martyrdom) it will face God in serenity."

A letter said to be written by Saddam on the internet later struck a different note, calling on Iraqis not to hate invaders of their country.

The US Government has declared the sentence to be a milestone in Iraq's transition to a democracy.

But human rights groups are opposing the execution.

And exiled former members of Saddam's ruling Ba'ath Party have threatened to retaliate if he is put to death by attacking US interests around the world.

Tony Blair responded to the news by insisting Britain was opposed to the death penalty, but added that the trial had given a "very clear reminder of the total and barbaric brutality of that regime".

Iraqi Shi'ites and Kurds, who were targeted by Saddam during his 24-year rule, have been keen to speed up the hanging, but some minority Sunni Arabs, who had been the ruling elite for decades, want him to return.

Saddam Hussein is dead!
Nicolaas van Rijn - December 30th 2006.

The "Butcher of Baghdad," as he was known to millions of his oppressed country folk, died shortly after 6 a.m. in Iraq, hanged by the neck until dead in an undisclosed prison under heavy guard.

Officially, Saddam was executed after being found guilty for his role in the 1982 killings of 148 Shiite Muslims – rounded up and executed after a botched assassination attempt in the Iraqi city of Dujail.

But unofficially his death is payback, justice for the many decades of his bloody rule in Iraq, a time when millions died in futile wars or were tortured and executed on the slightest whim.

"It was very quick. He died right away," one of the official Iraqi witnesses told Reuters, saying the former president's face was uncovered, he appeared calm and said a brief prayer as Iraqi policemen walked him to the gallows and put the noose round him.

"He seemed very calm. He did not tremble," said a senior official present at the execution. Saddam, 69, was bound and shackled but his face was uncovered as he met his death.

The former president recited the Muslim profession of faith "There is no God but God and Mohammed is his prophet" but made no other remark after policemen escorted him to the scaffold.

Two other Iraqi strongmen – Saddam's half-brother and former intelligence chief Barzan Ibrahim and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, the former chief justice of the Iraqi Revolutionary Court – were reportedly hanged at the same time. But an official denied they were executed and said they would be hanged after the week long Eid al-Adha holiday.

In his Friday sermon in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, Sheik Sadralddin al-Qubanji called Saddam's execution "God's gift to Iraqis.

"Oh, God, you know what Saddam has done!" exclaimed al-Qubanji, a member of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a dominant party in the country's governing coalition. "He killed millions of Iraqis in prisons, in wars with neighbouring countries, and he is responsible for mass graves.

"Oh God, we ask you to take revenge on Saddam."

Global reaction on the eve of Saddam's death was swift, with world leaders unanimous in the need for "unequivocal punishment," as the archbishop of Canterbury said, but, even so, questioning the need for Saddam's death.

"I think he deserves punishment, and sharp and unequivocal punishment," Most Rev. Rowan Williams told BBC Radio. "But I would say of him what I have to say about anyone who has committed even the most appalling crimes in the country, that I believe the death penalty effectively says there is no room for change and repentance."

Pope Benedict XVI's top prelate for justice issues, Cardinal Renato Martino, took a similar tack, noting Saddam's execution punishes "a crime with another crime ... the death penalty is not a natural death."

But Canadian Louise Arbour, the UN high commissioner for human rights, said it was important that Saddam's execution be seen as legal and just and complying with Iraqi law.

Key, she said, is ensuring the trial and appeal are "legitimately seen as, fair, credible and impartial."

The British reaction similarly stressed the rule of Iraqi law.

"We oppose the death penalty in all cases, regardless of the individual or the crime," said Rob Tinline, a spokesman for the British Foreign Office.

But, Tinline added, "It's an Iraqi trial, with Iraqi defendants, in an Iraqi court. It's a decision for the Iraqi authorities."

The beginning of Saddam's end came Nov. 5, when the tribunal in charge of his Dujail trial found him guilty and sentenced him to hang. In doing so it followed the urgings of the prosecution, which in closing arguments June 19 demanded the death penalty, saying the former Iraqi president showed "no mercy" in the killings.

Saddam trembled on hearing the news but remained defiant.

When Iraq's highest court rejected an appeal Dec. 26, saying Saddam must be hanged within 30 days, his fate was sealed.

The end came quickly, hastened by the arrival today of the Islamic holy feast of Eid-ul-Adha, the "feast of the sacrifice," celebrated by Muslims worldwide to commemorate the Prophet Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael for Allah. It is also a period when executions are illegal in Iraq.

The countdown to Saddam's death began earlier this week when prison guards at Camp Cropper, the high-security facility at Baghdad's international airport where he has been held in U.S. custody, removed the radio Saddam had been given.

That, say those who were there, was enough to give the former Iraqi dictator a sense that "something was happening."

Then, on Thursday, Saddam was allowed to meet with two of his brothers. He gave them his will, prison sources said, and the few personal belongings he was permitted to keep in his cell.

Saddam's lawyers said their client, who claimed he was not afraid to die, remained upbeat in the hours leading to his execution, "in very high spirits."

But they were not allowed to meet with him.

Najeeb al-Nueimi, a member of Saddam's legal team in Doha, Qatar, had requested a meeting with the deposed Iraqi leader.

"His daughter in Amman was crying, she said, `Take me with you,'" al-Nueimi said yesterday.

But their request was rejected.

Saddam remained in U.S. custody until he was turned over, at the very last, to the Iraqis.

Al-Nueimi said yesterday U.S. authorities were maintaining physical custody of Saddam to prevent him from being humiliated before his execution, and because the Americans also want to prevent the mutilation of his corpse, as has happened to other deposed Iraqi leaders.

"The Americans want him to be hanged respectfully," said al-Nueimi, noting any ill-treatment of his corpse "could cause an uprising, and the Americans would be blamed."

As the minutes leading up to the execution ticked off, Iraqi state television ran footage of Saddam's atrocities, including images of uniformed men placing a bomb next to a youth's chest and blowing him up in what looked like a desert, and handcuffed men being thrown from high buildings.

As the graphic images played out, official witnesses to his execution gathered in the fortified Green Zone, and U.S. forces went on high alert for a surge in violence.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, meeting with families of people who died during Saddam's rule, told them opposing his execution would be an insult to his victims.

"Our respect for human rights requires us to execute him" al-Maliki said, "and there will be no review or delay in carrying out the sentence."

And there was none.

Although the exact details of Saddam's end have not yet been released, typical high-profile Iraqi hangings follow a set procedure.

Instead of being transported to the Iraqi prison complex in eastern Baghdad where such executions are normally carried out, Saddam and his fellow condemned were taken to a specially constructed gallows in the American-run Camp Cropper.

There, he was turned over the Iraqi contingent responsible for his execution.

In Baghdad's Shiite enclave of Sadr City, people danced in the streets while others fired guns in the air to celebrate the former dictator's death. The government did not impose a round-the-clock curfew as it did last month when Saddam was convicted.

The execution was carried out around the start of Eid al-Adha, the Islamic world's largest holiday, which marks the end of the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, the hajj.

Worried about turning Saddam into a martyr, officials have not said whether Saddam's relatives will be permitted to bury the body, or whether it will go into an unmarked grave.

Saddam hangs for war crimes
Christopher Torchia & Qassim Abdul-Zahra - December 30th 2006.

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Clutching a Quran and refusing a hood, Saddam Hussein went to the gallows before sunrise Saturday, executed by vengeful countrymen after a quarter-century of remorseless brutality that killed countless thousands and led Iraq into disastrous wars against the United States and Iran.

In Baghdad’s Shiite enclave of Sadr City, people danced in the streets while others fired guns in the air to celebrate the former dictator’s death. The government did not impose a round-the-clock curfew as it did last month when Saddam was convicted to thwart any surge in retaliatory violence.

It was a grim end for the 69-year-old leader who had vexed three U.S. presidents. Despite his ouster, Washington, its allies and the new Iraqi leaders remain mired in a fight to quell a stubborn insurgency by Saddam loyalists and a vicious sectarian conflict.

President Bush called Saddam’s execution “the kind of justice he denied the victims of his brutal regime.’’

The execution took place during the year’s deadliest month for U.S. troops, with the toll reaching 108.

Ali Hamza, a 30-year-old university professor, said he went outside to shoot his gun into the air after he heard the news.

“Now all the victims’ families will be happy because Saddam got his just sentence,” said Hamza, who lives in Diwaniyah, a Shiite town south of Baghdad.

“We are looking for a new page of history despite the tragedy of the past,” said Saif Ibrahim, a 26-year-old Baghdad resident.

State-run Iraqiya television initially reported that Saddam’s half-brother Barzan Ibrahim and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, the former chief justice of the Revolutionary Court, also were hanged. However, three officials later said only Saddam was executed.

“We wanted him to be executed on a special day,” National Security advisor Mouwafak al-Rubaie told state-run Iraqiyah.

Sami al-Askari, the political adviser of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, told the Associated Press that Saddam struggled when he was taken from his cell in an American military prison but was composed in his last moments.

He said Saddam was clad completely in black, with a jacket, trousers, hat and shoes, rather than prison garb.

Shortly before the execution, Saddam’s hat was removed and Saddam was asked if he wanted to say something, al-Askari said.

“No I don’t want to,” al-Askari, who was present at the execution, quoted Saddam as saying. Saddam repeated a prayer after a Sunni Muslim cleric who was present.

“Saddam later was taken to the gallows and refused to have his head covered with a hood,” al-Askari said. “Before the rope was put around his neck, Saddam shouted: 'God is great. The nation will be victorious and Palestine is Arab.’’’

Saddam was executed at a former military intelligence headquarters in Baghdad’s Shiite neighborhood of Kazimiyah, al-Askari said. The neighborhood is home to the Iraqi capital’s most important Shiite shine, the Imam Kazim shrine.

Al-Askari said the government had not decided what to do with Saddam’s body. Photographs and video footage were taken, al-Rubaie said.

“He did not ask for anything. He was carrying a Quran and said: 'I want this Quran to be given to this person,’ a man he called Bander,” he said. Al-Rubaie said he did not know who Bander was.

“Saddam was treated with respect when he was alive and after his death,” al-Rubaie said. “Saddam’s execution was 100 per cent Iraqi and the American side did not interfere.’’

The station earlier was airing national songs after the first announcement and had a tag on the screen that read “Saddam’s execution marks the end of a dark period of Iraq’s history.’’

The execution came 56 days after a court convicted Saddam and sentenced him to death for his role in the killings of 148 Shiite Muslims from a town where assassins tried to kill the dictator in 1982. Iraq’s highest court rejected Saddam’s appeal Monday and ordered him executed within 30 days.

A U.S. judge on Friday refused to stop Saddam’s execution, rejecting a last-minute court challenge.

U.S. troops cheered as news of Saddam’s execution appeared on television at the mess hall at Forward Operating Base Loyalty in eastern Baghdad. But some soldiers expressed doubt that Saddam’s death would be a significant turning point for Iraq.

“First it was weapons of mass destruction. Then when there were none, it was that we had to find Saddam. We did that, but then it was that we had to put him on trial,” said Spc. Thomas Sheck, 25, of Philadelphia, who is on his second tour in Iraq. “So now, what will be the next story they tell us to keep us over here?’’

Sgt. Elston Miramonte, 25, of Monticello, N.Y., said Saddam got what he deserved.

“All the people that he killed, did they deserve to die? He had a fair trial, and it was time to execute him,” he said.

The execution was carried out around the start of Eid al-Adha, the Islamic world’s largest holiday, which marks the end of the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, the hajj. Many Muslims celebrate by sacrificing domestic animals, usually sheep.

Sunnis and Shiites throughout the world began observing the four-day holiday at dawn Saturday, but Iraq’s Shiite community — the country’s majority — was due to start celebrating on Sunday.

Al-Maliki had rejected calls that Saddam be spared, telling families of people killed during the dictator’s rule that would be an insult to the victims.

“Our respect for human rights requires us to execute him, and there will be no review or delay in carrying out the sentence,’’ al-Maliki’s office quoted him as saying during a meeting with relatives before the hanging.

Human Rights Watch criticized the execution, calling Saddam’s trial “deeply flawed.’’

“Saddam Hussein was responsible for massive human rights violations, but that can’t justify giving him the death penalty, which is a cruel and inhuman punishment,” said Richard Dicker, director of Human Rights Watch’s International Justice Program.

The hanging of Saddam, who was ruthless in ordering executions of his opponents, will keep other Iraqis from pursuing justice against the ousted leader.

At his death, he was in the midst of a second trial, charged with genocide and other crimes for a 1987-88 military crackdown that killed an estimated 180,000 Kurds in northern Iraq. Experts said the trial of his co-defendants was likely to continue despite his execution.

Many people in Iraq’s Shiite majority were eager to see the execution of a man whose Sunni Arab-dominated regime oppressed them and Kurds.

Before the hanging, a mosque preacher in the Shiite holy city of Najaf on Friday called Saddam’s execution “God’s gift to Iraqis.’’

“Oh, God, you know what Saddam has done! He killed millions of Iraqis in prisons, in wars with neighboring countries and he is responsible for mass graves. Oh God, we ask you to take revenge on Saddam,” said Sheik Sadralddin al-Qubanji, a member of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

On Thursday, two half brothers visited Saddam in his cell, a member of the former dictator’s defense team, Badee Izzat Aref, told the AP by telephone from the United Arab Emirates. He said the former dictator handed them his personal belongings.

A senior official at the Iraqi defense ministry said Saddam gave his will to one of his half brothers. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

In a farewell message to Iraqis posted Wednesday on the Internet, Saddam said he was giving his life for his country as part of the struggle against the U.S. “Here, I offer my soul to God as a sacrifice, and if he wants, he will send it to heaven with the martyrs,” he said.

One of Saddam’s lawyers, Issam Ghazzawi, said the letter was written by Saddam on Nov. 5, the day he was convicted by an Iraqi tribunal in the Dujail killings. The message called on Iraqis to put aside the sectarian hatred that has bloodied their nation for a year and voiced support for the Sunni Arab-dominated insurgency against U.S.-led forces, saying: “Long live jihad and the mujahedeen.’’

Saddam urged Iraqis to rely on God’s help in fighting “against the unjust nations” that ousted his regime.

Najeeb al-Nauimi, a member of Saddam’s legal team, said U.S. authorities maintained physical custody of Saddam until the execution to prevent him being humiliated publicly or his corpse being mutilated, as has happened to previous Iraqi leaders deposed by force. He said they didn’t want anything to happen to further inflame Sunni Arabs.

“This is the end of an era in Iraq,” al-Nauimi said from Doha, Qatar. “The Baath regime ruled for 35 years. Saddam was vice president or president of Iraq during those years. For Iraqis, he will be very well remembered. Like a martyr, he died for the sake of his country.’’

Iraq’s death penalty was suspended by the U.S. military after it toppled Saddam in 2003, but the new Iraqi government reinstated it two years later, saying executions would deter criminals.

Saddam’s own regime used executions and extrajudicial killings as a tool of political repression, both to eliminate real or suspected political opponents and to maintain a reign of terror.

In the months after he seized power on July 16, 1979, he had hundreds of members of his own party and army officers slain. In 1996, he ordered the slaying of two sons-in-law who had defected to Jordan but returned to Baghdad after receiving guarantees of safety.

Saddam built Iraq into a one of the Arab world’s most modern societies, but then plunged the country into an eight-year war with neighboring Iran that killed hundreds of thousands of people on both sides and wrecked Iraq’s economy. During that war, as part of the wider campaign against Kurds, the Iraqi military used chemical weapons against the Kurdish town of Halabja in northern Iraq, killing an estimated 5,000 civilians.

The economic troubles from the Iran war led Saddam to invade Kuwait in the summer of 1990, seeking to grab its oil wealth, but a U.S.-led coalition inflicted a stinging defeat on the Iraq army and freed the Kuwaitis.

U.N. sanctions imposed over the Kuwait invasion remained in place when Saddam failed to cooperate fully in international efforts to ensure his programs for creating weapons of mass destruction had been dismantled. Iraqis, once among the region’s most prosperous, were impoverished.

The final blow came when U.S.-led troops invaded in March 2003. Saddam’s regime fell quickly, but political, sectarian and criminal violence have created chaos that has undermined efforts to rebuild Iraq’s ruined economy.

While he wielded a heavy hand to maintain control, Saddam also sought to win public support with a personality cult that pervaded Iraqi society. Thousands of portraits, posters, statues and murals were erected in his honor all over Iraq. His face could be seen on the sides of office buildings, schools, airports and shops and on Iraq’s currency.

Saddam's race to gallows angers US officials
John Burns and Marc Santor, Baghdad - January 2nd 2007.

AMERICAN officials are said to have questioned the political wisdom — and justice — of expediting the death of Saddam Hussein.

The officials have been reluctant to say much publicly about the pell-mell nature of the hanging, apparently fearful of provoking recriminations in Washington, where the Bush Administration adopted a hands-off posture, saying the timing of the execution was Iraq's to decide.

While privately incensed at the dead-of-night rush to the gallows, the Americans here have been caught, over the hanging, in the double-bind that has ensnared them over much else about the al-Maliki Government.

They are almost terminally frustrated by the Government's failure to recognise how its behaviour is driving the country towards an abyss, but remain reluctant to speak out, or sometimes to act, for fear of undermining Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and making the situation still worse.

But a narrative pieced together from accounts given by various American officials, and by Iraqis who were present at some of the crucial meetings between the two sides, shows that it was the Americans, consistently, who counselled the Iraqis to be cautious in the way they carried out the hanging.

A senior Iraqi official said that the Americans staked out their ground at a meeting on Thursday, 48 hours after an appeal court upheld the death sentences on Saddam and two associates.

Told that Mr Maliki wanted to carry out the death sentence on Saddam almost immediately, American officers said they would accept any decision made by the Government, but they needed to be sure that due process had been followed before relinquishing custody of Saddam.

"The Americans said that 'We have no issue in handing him over, but we need everything to be in accordance with the law'," the Iraqi official said, adding that they did not wish to break the law. None of the Iraqi officials were able to explain why Mr Maliki had been unwilling to delay the execution until it could be better organised.

Saddam was buried in the dead of night in his native village on Sunday. His fellow Sunni Arabs flocked to Awja, near Tikrit, to see his grave and vent their fury at Shiite officials who taunted him on the gallows.

Fury swept Sunni Muslim communities in the Middle East over mobile phone footage showing Saddam being taunted by officials moments before he is seen dangling, neck broken and eyes open, from the gallows.

The images showed moments edited out of official images, adding to anger among Sunnis who claim the former leader faced a vendetta by the Shiite-dominated Government.

Iraqi officials, facing a surge of violence because of the way the execution was handled, insisted it was not an act of revenge.

"This whole execution is about justice," Hiwa Osman, an adviser for the President told the BBC.

But there was criticism of the process in which observers managed to shoot scenes of the killing on their mobile phones, and hurl insults at the former leader.

Supporters of the former tyrant, and the Sunni Muslim ascendancy he personified in Iraqi politics, spoke of their shock at the manner of Saddam's death.

The video, they said, would inspire more resistance to the American-backed Government.

Sabah al-Shamri, a former colonel in Saddam's Republican Guard, said: "This is government by revenge. Saddam Hussein is our leader and now he is a martyr of history.

"We will turn ourselves into bombs to avenge him."

The Rise and fall of Saddam
Reuters - December 29th 2006.

BAGHDAD – Saddam Hussein combined a shrewd tactical mind with a taste for violence as he rose from humble beginnings to enjoy three decades of absolute power in Iraq.

But overarching ambition, which saw him invade neighbouring Iran and Kuwait and defy former U.S. allies who accused him of developing nuclear and chemical weapons, destroyed Iraq's oil-rich economy and finally brought him down.

Saddam, 69, rose from fatherless poverty in Tikrit to seize power in a 1968 coup with his pan-Arab Baath party.

He went from being the Baath's power-behind-the-throne to Iraq's presidency in 1979 and invaded Iran the following year, launching a war that lasted eight years and killed hundreds of thousands of people, scarring an entire generation.

His rule crumbled when U.S. tanks swept into Baghdad in April of 2003.

Saddam, meaning "one who confronts" in Arabic, was captured in December of that year when American soldiers found him in a hole near his home town of Tikrit.

He had vowed to go down fighting, as his sons did months before, but gave up without firing a shot. U.S. forces said Saddam was disoriented when they found him in a pit covered with polystyrene and a rug, near a simple shack in an orange grove.

"I am the president of Iraq, and I want to negotiate," he told the soldiers who found him.

The hut where he had been staying consisted of one room with two beds and a fridge containing a can of lemonade, a packet of hot dogs and an opened box of Belgian chocolates. Several new pairs of shoes lay in their boxes scattered around the floor.

A U.S. general said he was caught "like a rat" and many Arabs who had admired his defiance of the United States were shocked by his failure to fight back.

Iraqis who lived for years under the gaze of proud Saddam statues and posters saw humiliating images of him in custody, mouth held open by a probing medic, an unfamiliar beard streaked grey and dishevelled after months on the run.

Saddam was sentenced in November to hang for crimes against humanity for killing, torture and other crimes against 148 Shiites following a 1982 attempt on his life.

An appeals court upheld the ruling on Tuesday and he was hanged in Baghdad on Saturday.

In a letter written after his sentencing in November, he said: "I offer myself in sacrifice. If my soul goes down this path (of martyrdom) it will face God in serenity."

U.S. President George W. Bush hailed the death sentence as a milestone for democracy and U.S. officials presented the trial as an Iraqi catharsis, but Iraq is gripped by sectarian and ethnic strife in which tens of thousands of people have died.


Saddam became president in 1979 after using his skills as a street fighter and conspirator to get the Baath party into power. Surrounding himself with relatives from his home town of Tikrit, he maintained an iron grip on Iraq despite bloody wars, uprisings, coup plots and assassination attempts.

His ruthless rule, during which his enemies say hundreds of thousands of people died, largely kept the lid on simmering tensions between Arabs and Kurds and between majority Shi'ite Muslims and the strongman's once-dominant fellow Sunnis.

Once an ally of the United States, which aided him in his war against Shi'ite Islamist Iran, he was demonised by Western leaders after his army invaded Washington's ally Kuwait in 1990.

His description of the first Gulf War as the "mother of all battles" has entered the lexicon.

For some years, U.S. policy was to contain Saddam but after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, Bush chose Iraq as the next target in his "war on terror" after Afghanistan.

Having held on to power with much bloodshed when U.S.-led forces did not follow through on their victory in the 1991 Gulf War, he was eventually toppled in a lightning three-week war.

Despite U.S. efforts to take him out, Saddam eluded their grasp and spent eight months on the run, issuing occasional audiotapes taunting his pursuers and urging Iraqis to resist the forces of a man he had dubbed "the criminal little Bush".

Captured in December 2003, Saddam spent the last three years of his life in U.S. custody, the spartan life in a U.S. military cell a far cry from the extravagant luxury of palaces where the bathrooms were famously fitted with gold taps.

When his Dujail trial opened in October 2005, he appeared in a neat suit and was defiant from the start, insisting "I am the president of Iraq" and denouncing the U.S.-backed court.

Playing to a televised gallery and for his place in history, he told the court in July in a typically bravura performance that as a military officer he deserved to be shot, not hanged.

In August 2006 Saddam's second trial started, on charges of war crimes including genocide against Iraqi Kurds. It was not concluded by the time of his death and the charges lapse.

In his final days in a U.S.-run prison, he called on Iraqis to stop fighting each other and instead focus on killing Americans, projecting the image of a father figure in a country formed by European colonial rulers from a patchwork of ethnic and religious communities.

As president, he appealed variously to Arab nationalism, Islam and Iraqi patriotism and would appear in the traditional clothes of an Iraqi peasant, military uniform or Western suits.

In court appearances he appeared tieless in a sober suit and clutching a Koran. His lawyers and co-accused respectfully called him "Mr. President".

During his Dujail trial he said: "Even if they put me in hellfire, God forgive me ... I would say, 'Fine, for the sake of Iraq.' And I will not cry, for my heart is full of belief."

Sunni anger over Saddam hanging spills into streets
The Associated Press - December 31th 2006.

BAGHDAD, Iraq: Rage over the hanging of Saddam Hussein spilled into the streets in many parts of the Sunni Muslim heartland Monday, especially in Samarra where a mob of angry protesters broke the locks off the badly damaged Shiite Golden Dome mosque and marched through carrying a mock coffin and photo of the executed former leader.

Sunni extremists had blown apart the glistening dome on the Shiite holy place 10 months earlier, setting in motion the sectarian slaughter that now grips the troubled land.

The U.S. death toll climbed to at least 3,002 by the final day of 2006 as the American military reported the deaths of two more soldiers in an explosion Sunday in Diyala Province, northeast of the capital.

The Samarra protest was particularly significant because it signaled a widening expression of defiance among Sunnis, the minority Muslim sect in Iraq that had enjoyed special status and power under Saddam and had oppressed the now-ascendant Shiite majority for centuries.

Until Saddam was executed, excluding a few days of protests after his death sentence was handed down Nov. 5, the broader Sunni population had sought a low profile in the sectarian conflict that had seen thousands of them killed or driven from their homes by Shiite militia forces since the Samarra bombing Feb. 22.

Sunni insurgents and foreign fighters of al-Qaida in Iraq had been conducting a bloody insurgency with attacks on U.S. forces and brutal bombings against Shiite civilians since the summer of 2003, shortly after Saddam was ousted in the American-led invasion.

While many Sunnis were known to be sympathetic to the insurgency, its active membership had not reached broadly into the Sunni population. The angry Sunni protests that now are building in the country could presage deeper involvement by what until now had been a largely quiescent group.

The Sunnis were not only angered by Saddam's hurried execution, just four days after an appeals court upheld his conviction and sentence, but were increasingly incensed by the unruly and undignified manner in which the hanging was carried out.

A clandestine video of the hanging showed Saddam was taunted by some present at the execution with chants of "Muqtada, Muqtada, Muqtada" in the last moments of his life. The chants were a reference to anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who runs one of the deadliest religious militias in Iraq and is a major power behind the government of Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who had pushed for Saddam to be hanged before the year was out.

Saddam was put to death on the eve of the Shiite celebration of the Eid al-Ahda, the major Muslim festival marking the end of the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca and a remembrance Abraham's willingness to sacrifice of his son, now symbolized by the slaughtering of sheep.

The first judge in the so-called Dujail trial, Rizgar Mohammed Amin, said Saddam's execution in the during the eid was illegal according to Iraqi law. Sunni Muslim festivities marking the holiday began on the same day that Saddam was hanged.

Rizgar, a Kurd, was removed as chief judge in the case after Shiite complaints that he was too lenient. He was replaced in January 2006 by Raouf Rasheed Abdel-Rahman.

"The implementation of Saddam's execution during Eid al-adha is illegal according to chapter 9 of the tribunal law. Article 27 states that nobody, even the president (Jalal Talabani), may change rulings by the tribunal and the implementation of the sentence should not happen until 30 days after publication that the appeals court has upheld the tribunal verdict.

"The hanging during the Eid al-Adha period (also) contradicts Iraqi and Islamic custom.

"Article 290 of the criminal code of 1971 (which was largely used in the Saddam trial) states that no verdict should implemented during the official holidays or religious festivals," he said.

In northern Baghdad, hundreds of Sunnis conducted a demonstration to mourn Saddam in a predominantly Sunni neighborhood.

"The Baath party and Baathists still exist in Iraq, and nobody can marginalize it," said Samir al-Obaidi, 48, who attended a Saddam memorial in the Azamiyah neighborhood.

In Dor, 125 kilometers (77 miles) north of Baghdad, hundreds more took to the streets to inaugurate a giant mosaic of Saddam. Children carried toy guns and men fired into the air.

Mourners at a mosque in Saddam's hometown of Tikrit slaughtered sheep as a sacrifice for their former leader. The mosque's walls were lined with condolence cards from tribes in southern Iraq and Jordan who were unable to travel to the memorial.

Saddam's eldest daughter briefly attended a protest Monday in Amman — her first public appearance since her father was hanged.

Raghad Saddam Hussein stopped in at the demonstration staged by the Professional Associations, a body that groups unions for doctors, engineers and lawyers, in its office parking lot in west Amman.

"God bless you, and I thank you for honoring Saddam, the martyr," two witnesses recalled Raghad Saddam Hussein as telling the protesters, who included a junior Cabinet minister, on her arrival. She left a minute later.

Also, U.S. forces killed six people in a raid on the Baghdad offices of a top Sunni politician, Saleh al-Mutlaq, on suspicion it was being used as an al-Qaida safe house, the military and Iraqi police said.

The U.S. military said took on heavy fire from automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades as they sought to enter the building. Al-Mutlaq is a senior member of the National Dialogue Front, which holds 11 of the 275 seats in Iraq's parliament.

Police said the raid also took place near the home of Salama al-Khafaji, a former Shiite parliamentarian who abandoned her residence after escaping an assassination attempt last year.

Ground troops were backed by helicopters that "engaged the enemy with precision point target machine gun fire," the military said. It was unclear whether the deaths resulted from the ground assault or fire from U.S. helicopters.

Associated Press Television News footage showed masses of rubble in the area and what appeared to be a long smear of blood where a body had been dragged across the floor of one of the buildings.

Walls in the buildings were pitted with what looked to be the impact of bullets and shrapnel.

With the announced deaths of two more soldiers, the Associated Press count of fatalities showed at least 113 U.S. service members died in December, the bloodiest month of 2006, a year in which at least 822 forces died.

Police reported finding the bodies of 40 handcuffed, blindfolded and bullet-riddled bodies in Baghdad on the first day of the New Year. A police official, who refused to be named out of security fears, said "15 of these bodies found in one place," the largely industrial Sheik Omar district in northern Baghdad.

Otherwise the there were no reported violent deaths in the country Monday with the exception of the shooting death of an Iraqi worker for Algerian Embassy in Baghdad.

Also Monday, the Iraqi government sealed the offices of a privately owned television station, charging it had incited violence and hatred in its programming.

A journalist for Al-Sharqiya station, which broadcasts from Dubai, said the station closed its Baghdad office three months ago because of attacks on its staff.

"The channel administration decided to close it for security reasons," said the journalist, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of safety concerns.

Al-Sharqiya remained on the air late Monday. The station is owned by Saad al-Bazzaz, a one-time chief of radio and television for Saddam.

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