In fact, Saddam Hussein was held by US authorities
Sat Dec 30, 2006 03:08

Editor's Note: In a separate story, The Telegraph in England is reporting, "There was no comment from the White House, which was determined that the execution should appear to be an Iraqi event." In fact, Saddam Hussein was held by US authorities until the very moment of the execution, which took place in the US military-controlled Green Zone in Baghdad. - ma/TO

Saddam Hussein Executed
By Sudarsan Raghavan
The Washington Post

Friday 29 December 2006

Former Iraqi leader hanged for crimes against humanity.

Baghdad - Former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, who rose from humble beginnings to build the Arab world's most ruthless dictatorship but whose fall unleashed a turbulent era for his nation and the world, was executed early Saturday morning in Baghdad, according to Iraqi state television.

Hussein, 69, who demanded a cultlike devotion from his people and built monuments to proclaim his own greatness, was hung around 6 a.m. local time (10 p.m. Friday EST) in the American-controlled Green Zone in central Baghdad. Hussein was executed before a small group of observers, including some who had been tortured by his regime.

"Criminal Saddam was hanged to death," state-run Iraqiya television said in an announcement. The station played patriotic music and showed images of national monuments and other landmarks.

The execution took place three days after Iraq's highest court upheld Hussein's death sentence, a decision that meant the execution should take place within 30 days. Last month Hussein was found guilty of crimes against humanity for the killings of 148 Shiite men and boys from the northern town of Dujail after an attempt on his life in 1982.

Many human rights groups criticized the trial as unfair, delivering nothing more than victor's justice, a charge Iraqi officials denied.

Also hanged on Saturday morning were Hussein's half-brother Barzan Ibrahim and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, the former chief justice of the Revolutionary Court.

Sunni Arab loyalists have already vowed to take revenge for Hussein's execution, while many of Hussein's most ardent critics have said they would have loved to have carried out the execution themselves.

"It's like God asking you to choose between heaven and hell," said Thamer al-Musawi, 47, a barber in Baghdad's Karrada neighborhood, speaking before the execution. "If Saddam gets executed, you go to hell. If he doesn't, you go to heaven. I will choose hell just so Saddam is executed."

"He is not a human being," Musawi added. "He does not deserve to be alive."

On Wednesday, a farewell letter posted on several Web sites in the name of Hussein declared that he was ready to die and urged Iraqis not to hate the people of the countries that had invaded Iraq, just their leaders. His lawyers said the letter was authentic and had been written Nov. 5, the day his death sentence was pronounced. A portion of it reads:

"Here, I offer my soul to God as a sacrifice, and if God wants He will lift it up to where the first believers and martyrs are, and if His decision is postponed, then He is the most merciful." The letter's authenticity is impossible to verify independently.

On Thursday, he met in his prison cell with his two maternal half brothers and handed them personal messages, according to his lawyers.

The Sunni Arab son of a landless peasant who died before he was born, Hussein was raised by an uncle in the farmlands that surround the northern town of Tikrit. As a young man, he joined the Iraqi Baath Party, which advocated secular pan-Arab nationalism, eventually playing a key role in the 1968 coup that brought the party to power.

In July 1979, Hussein become Iraq's president and quickly plunged the nation into a vicious, debilitating eight-year war against Iran. Three years after that war ended, a U.S.-led coalition attacked Iraq in 1991 over Hussein's invasion of Kuwait the year before.

Within Iraq, Hussein favored the Sunni Arab community to which he belonged, while persecuting the majority Shiites, including brutally suppressing an uprising after the Persian Gulf War. He is also accused of orchestrating the killing of tens of thousands of northern Kurds with poison gas and other chemical weapons, crimes for which he was being tried at the time of his execution.

Almost nine months after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Hussein was captured near a small village on the outskirts of Tikrit. The following June, Iraq's interim government took legal custody of the former president and prosecuted him for crimes against humanity.

Hussein leaves behind a fractured Iraq. Cycles of sectarian violence have deepened the divide between Sunnis and Shiites and paralyzed the government. Sunni insurgents are killing U.S. troops almost every day, with this month's death toll already the second-highest this year. Shiite militias are storming neighborhoods and using power drills and other forms of torture before killing victims.

Hussein's lawyers filed a petition on Friday in U.S. District Court in Washington seeking a temporary stay of his execution. The motion, filed with Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who is the district court judge on call over the holiday weekend for emergency matters, seeks a stay based on the fact that he is a defendant in a civil action in federal court.

His "incarceration has prevented him from receiving proper due process notice of his rights to defend himself and his estate," his lawyers wrote in the 21-page document.

Iraqi authorities chose not to wait for a ruling from Kollar-Kotelly before proceeding with the execution. Although Hussein was housed in a U.S.-run detention facility in Baghdad, U.S. and Iraqi officials contend that Iraq's government had legal custody of him.

Lawyers for Bandar, made a similar request in federal court on Thursday, but their motion was denied, the Associated Press reported. Bandar was also executed Saturday morning. The Justice Department argued in that case that U.S. courts have no jurisdiction to interfere with the judicial process of another country.


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