Profile: Barzan, Saddam's banker and torturer in chief
BAGHDAD - In Geneva, Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti was Saddam's dapper "banker in
the West" but in Iraq he was his brother's ruthless enforcer, a man who ate
grapes as he watched torture and was reputed to have a meat grinder for human
His death was as grisly as some of
those he inflicted on others. His head was ripped from his body by the hangman's
noose as he plunged through the trapdoor of the gallows, according to a
government spokesman who called it a rare mishap.
Saddam Hussein (2nd R) chats with his
intelligence chief and half-brother, Barzan al-Tikriti (2nd L) as his sons
Uday (L) and Qusay walk past in an undated holiday photo from the private
archive of an official photographer for the regime. [Reuters]
Barzan was hanged on Monday with former chief judge Awad Hamed al-Bander,
both found guilty with Saddam Hussein of crimes against humanity in the killing
of 148 Shi'ites from Dujail after a failed assassination attempt on Saddam in
One of Saddam's three half-brothers, and 14 years his junior, Barzan was a
former head of the Mukhabarat intelligence service and one of the most feared
men in Iraq.
A witness at his trial said Barzan had personally supervised his torture with
electric shocks in Baghdad in the 1980s, and had eaten grapes while the man
screamed in agony. Another witness described how Barzan beat her and broke her
ribs after she was hung naked from the ceiling by her feet.
Prosecution witness Ahmed Hassan described being taken to Barzan's
interrogation facility in Baghdad and seeing a meat grinder for human flesh.
Barzan was said to have roamed Dujail with a sniper rifle firing
indiscriminately after the attack on Saddam's motorcade.
"Barzan was present. He had red cowboy boots and blue jeans and a sniper
rifle," Hassan told the court.
Widely circulated film of him viciously kicking a man who lies cowering on
the floor sealed his image as Saddam's enforcer.
Barzan was captured by US special forces in Baghdad in April 2003. His home
near Ramadi, which was also an operations center for the intelligence service,
had been targeted by US "smart bombs" during the war. He was the five of clubs
in a US deck of playing cards representing the most wanted men in Iraq.
As intelligence chief, Barzan was accused of ordering mass murder and
torture, and of personally taking part in human rights abuses, including the
destruction of Kurdish villages.
After one of his frequent, and lengthy, tirades in court, Judge Raouf Abdel
Rahman told him: "Enough blood. Your hands have been saturated with blood since
FROM COWBOY BOOTS TO TAILORED SUITS
Barzan ran Iraq's intelligence service from 1979 to 1983 but fell out of
favour over his hatred for Lieutenant-General Hussein Kamel Hassan, who married
Saddam's daughter Raghd.
Hussein Kamel was eventually killed upon return to Iraq in 1996 after a brief
defection to Jordan.
Barzan, who was born in February 1951 in Tikrit, resurfaced as Iraq's
ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva from 1988 to 1997. One of his roles
there was as Iraq's envoy to the Conference on Disarmament, which was holding
preliminary talks on nuclear bomb making fissile material.
"He was deliberately ambiguous. It was all smoke and mirrors," a former
western diplomat in Geneva told Reuters this month. The former diplomat recalled
Barzan was always dressed in elegant tailored suits.
"He was said to be Saddam's banker in the West."
In 1993, Barzan's then teenage eldest daughter married Saddam's playboy
eldest son Uday. Uday later rejected her and sent her back to her father.
After serving nearly a decade in the Swiss city, Barzan was called back to
Baghdad in late 1998 after his wife died of cancer. But he returned regularly to
Geneva to visit his six children who stayed to complete their studies.
Loyal to Saddam to the end, Barzan was a colourful presence in court. In
January, when Saddam stormed out of a hearing, Barzan was dragged out by guards
after refusing to keep quiet and calling the trial "a daughter of a whore".
At another hearing while disputing prosecution documents he had allegedly
signed, he pointed to the movie "Catch Me If You Can" with Leonardo DiCaprio,
which dramatises the true story of a teenaged conman who stole more than $2.5
million, as an example of how easy it would be to forge a signature.
Forced to attend the court against his will when the defendants were
boycotting proceedings, he turned up in what appeared to be his pyjamas.
Barzan was suffering from cancer but that did not stop him mounting spirited
attacks on the court and its US backers.
Taking the stand in his own defence last March, he said Saddam had a right to
punish those who tried to kill him, but denied any part in the reprisals,
saying: "My hands are as clean as Moses' hands. I have no blood on my hands."