An Iraqi official rejected suggestions Friday that Saddam Hussein
could be hanged as early as Saturday while lawyers for the ousted
dictator said he was preparing for his execution.
As speculation swirled about the timing of the execution, the Iraqi
Justice Ministry rejected 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 be executed as early as Saturday.
The Iraqi official also said there would be no execution before Jan.
26, 30 days after the sentence was upheld by an appellate court. But
government ministers said there were conflicting views in cabinet over
that timing and whether the Iraqi president needed to sign a death
Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq, in his first comments
on the issue, said Friday there could be no going back on the sentence
passed last month and "no delay" in carrying it out.
An aide to Maliki confirmed the content of the remarks, reported by
state television, and said Maliki had made them to relatives of victims
of Saddam’s oppression.
The report quoted Maliki as saying that those who opposed the
hanging were insulting those who had suffered, 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.
Maliki, from the Shiite Muslim majority oppressed under Saddam, said
last month that 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 have
said they would like to see Saddam convicted of genocide in the Kurdish
north of Iraq. That second trial is scheduled to resume Jan. 8.
Khalil al-Dulaimi, who led Saddam’s defense team in the first trial,
which ended Nov. 5, said: "The Americans called me and asked me to pick
up the personal effects."
An Iraqi appellate court upheld the death sentence against Saddam
for crimes against humanity and said Tuesday that he should be executed
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 the U.S.
military had handed over Saddam to the Iraqi government. Deputy Justice
Minister Bosho Ibrahim said: "This is not true. He is still with the
U.S. military spokesmen said they had nothing to add to a statement Thursday that Saddam was still in U.S. custody.
U.S. military and embassy spokesmen dealing with the issue have said there was a need for secrecy over the arrangements.
Although legally in Iraqi custody, U.S. troops keep guard over
Saddam. And although Iraq will carry out the execution, U.S. and Iraqi
officials said it was also likely that U.S. forces would stay on hand
throughout the execution to prevent opponents of the former leader from
turning it into a public spectacle.
Iraqi officials backed away Thursday from suggestions they would
definitely hang him within a month, in line with a 30-day deadline
apparently set out in the statues of the tribunal. An Iraqi cabinet
minister said a weeklong religious holiday ending Jan. 7 would stall
One of Saddam’s lawyers said Saddam said farewell to two of his brothers Thursday during the rare prison meeting.
"He was in very high spirits and clearly readying himself," Badie
Aref, said after the 69-year-old former leader met his half-brothers,
Watban and Sabawi, at the U.S. Army’s Camp Cropper near the Baghdad
"He told them he was happy he would meet his death at the hands of
his enemies and be a martyr, not just languish in jail," the lawyer
The Iraqi national security adviser, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, said
Thursday that there would be no advance notice of the execution because
of fears that any announcement could set off violence. When asked who
would be invited to attend the hanging, Rubaie said: "No television. No
He said the execution would be videotaped, but that it was unlikely the tape would be released. $@