Iraq executes Saddam Hussein by hanging
December 29, 2006 /Solomon Moore, Times Staff Writers
Baghdad “” Deposed Iraqi president Saddam Hussein was executed by hanging about 6 a.m. Saturday Baghdad time.
Hussein’s death warrant was signed today by the nation’s two vice presidents and execution witnesses gathered in the heavily fortified Green Zone for the execution, according to an Iraqi official with knowledge of the proceedings.
Hussein was hanged for his role in the deaths of 148 Shiite men and boys nearly a quarter-century ago.
U.S. officials said that Prime Minister Nouri Maliki met with cabinet officials and other politicians throughout the day to plan the event. Security plans were Iraqi leaders’ main concern, as well as sorting through procedural requirements for the execution, including the signing of the death warrant and the timing of the execution.
U.S. military officials handed Hussein over to Iraqi officials around 8 p.m. today Baghdad time, according to one of Hussein’s defense attorneys.
Maryam Rayis, a legal advisor to Maliki, said that Hussein’s death warrant was signed by Vice Presidents Tariq Hashimi, a Sunni Arab politician, and Shiite politician, Adel Abdul Mehdi. President Jalal Talabani, a death penalty opponent, was out of Baghdad today and delegated his capital authority to Mehdi, Rayis said.
Hussein was dressed in a red jumpsuit, Rayis said, which has been the custom for death row prisoners in Iraq since before Hussein came to power.
The gallows were set up by midnight Baghdad time, Rayis said, and Hussein was to be offered a last meal before being led to the scaffold.
Defense lawyer, Najib Naimi, said that U.S. military officials asked him this morning to send someone to pick up the former president’s personal effects, such as clothing, books “” including a Koran “” and a manuscript Hussein had been writing.
“He was writing his biography,” Naimi said. “But I don’t think he had a chance to complete it.”
Among the witnesses scheduled to watch Hussein’s hanging were a representative from the Interior Ministry, Iraqi High Tribunal Judge Munir Haddad, Chief Prosecutor Munqith Fraoon, a physician and a cleric to read from the Koran, Rayis said.
Hussein’s wife, who is in Qatar, and his daughter, who is in Jordan were allowed to attend since they are both fugitives from Iraqi justice, Rayis said. Hussein’s lawyers were also barred from attending his execution, Rayis said.
Hussein was to allowed to offer final words, but they would not be broadcast live on television, Rayis said. Video footage will likely be shown in some abbreviated form after Hussein’s execution, Rayis said.
Rayis’ statements apparently put to rest conflicting reports about the timing of Hussein’s execution and whether U.S. authorities had handed over custody to the Iraqi government that emerged today.
U.S. officials said that they were surprised both by the Justice Ministry’s rejection of Hussein’s capital appeal on Tuesday and by the Iraqi government’s swift decision to push for Hussein’s execution. Hussein also expressed surprise when he met with defense attorneys on Thursday, Naimi said, and had hoped to file additional legal petitions.
Hussein’s lawyers filed a motion for a temporary restraining order at the Washington D.C. Court of Appeals in an effort to force the U.S. military to retain custody of Hussein, but it was denied.
Hussein’s execution coincided with the end of the Hajj “” or the season of Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. Most Sunnis will begin Eid al-Adha at midnight Saturday. Most Shiites will begin 24 hours later.
Naimi claimed that Maliki was pushing for Hussein’s execution during the holiday to “make a gift during Eid to his party.”
Hussein “will be the sacrificial lamb for the Shiites, and the Iranians in particular,” said Naimi, referring to the traditional practice of many Muslims, who slaughter lambs after pilgrimage for celebratory feasts.
U.S. officials expressed concern that news of the imminent execution, which began circulating on Thursday, would give insurgents time to plan attacks. U.S. military officials said that they were beefing up security in Baghdad in advance of the execution and possible retaliatory violence. Iraqi and U.S. officials said that the government would likely extend a customary Friday curfew indefinitely.
“U.S. forces in Iraq are obviously at a high state of alert”¦because of the environment that they operate in and because of the current security situation,” said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman at a morning briefing in Washington. “They’ll obviously take into account social dimensions that could potentially lead to an increase in violence, which certainly would include carrying out the sentence of Saddam Hussein.”
Hussein had been held at Camp Cropper a military base on Baghdad’s outskirts, according to U.S. officials.
The site of the execution was kept secret for fear of insurgent attacks.
Naimi said that Hussein’s family wants to bury him in his northern hometown of Tikrit and fear that the government will cremate him and scatter the ashes.
After his hanging, Hussein’s body was to be wrapped in a white sheet for burial, Rayis said. The body will be buried by Iraq’s Directorate of Social Welfare if it is not claimed by a family member, Rayis said.
Iraqi High Tribunal’s rejection of Hussein’s appeal Tuesday began a 30-day deadline for his execution, which would run out by the end of January.
His execution ended other legal proceedings against Hussein, including a current case against him involving his alleged involvement in the Anfal military campaign, which left tens of thousands of Kurds dead by gunfire, bomb blasts and poison gas.