Official: Saddam to be executed in hours

Updated: 2006-12-30 08:32

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The official witnesses to Saddam Hussein's impending execution gathered Friday in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone in final preparation for his hanging, as state television broadcast footage of his regime's atrocities.

In this photo released by the Iraqi Special Tribunal, former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is seen as he is questioned by Chief Investigative Judge Raid Juhi, not seen, in this Aug. 23, 2005 file photo at an unknown location. [AP]

With US forces on high alert for a surge in violence, the Iraqi government readied all the necessary documents, including a "red card" an execution order introduced during Saddam's dictatorship. As the hour of his death approached, Saddam received two of his half brothers in his cell on Thursday and was said to have given them his personal belongings and a copy of his will.

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Najeeb al-Nueimi, a member of Saddam's legal team in Doha, Qatar, said he too requested a final meeting with the deposed Iraqi leader. "His daughter in Amman was crying, she said 'Take me with you,'" al-Nueimi said late Friday. But he said their request was rejected.

An adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Saddam would be executed before 6 a.m. Saturday, or 10 p.m. Friday EST. Also to be hanged at that time were Saddam's half-brother Barzan Ibrahim and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, the former chief justice of the Revolutionary Court, the adviser said.

The time was agreed upon during a meeting Friday between US and Iraqi officials, said the adviser, who declined to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

"Saddam will be handed over shortly before the execution," the official said. The physical transfer of Saddam from US to Iraqi authorities was believed to be one of the last steps before he was to be hanged. Saddam has been in US custody since he was captured in December 2003.

Al-Nueimi said US authorities were maintaining physical custody of Saddam to prevent him from being humiliated before his execution. He said 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," al-Nueimi said. If Saddam is humiliated publicly or his corpse ill-treated "that could cause an uprising and the Americans would be blamed," he said.

Munir Haddad, a judge on the appeals court that upheld Saddam's death sentence, said he was ready to attend the hanging and that all the paperwork was in order, including the red card.

"All the measures have been done," Haddad said. "There is no reason for delays."

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