Saddam says faces death without fear, urges unity

Updated: 2006-12-28 07:29

Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein said his execution would be a sacrifice for Iraq and called on Iraqis to unite and fight US forces in a letter yesterday.

"Here I offer myself in sacrifice. If God almighty wishes, it (my soul) will take me where he orders to be with the martyrs," Saddam said in the hand-written letter obtained from his defence lawyers in Jordan.

"If my soul goes down this path (of martyrdom) it will face God in serenity."

The defence team said the letter was written shortly after Saddam was sentenced to death in November for crimes against humanity during his 24-year rule, and before the Iraqi High Tribunal appeals court on Tuesday ratified the lower court's ruling.

"You have known your brother and leader as you have known your own family. He has not bowed down to the tyrants and remained a sword against them," Saddam said.

"Oh great people, I call on you preserve the values that enabled you to be worthy of carrying out shouldering the faith and to be the light of civilisation," the letter said.

"Your unity stands against falling into servitude."

Following the appeals court decision, Saddam faces death by hanging within 30 days.

Sentence needs no approval

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's spokesman said yesterday that the appeals court decision upholding Saddam's death sentence is final and does not require the approval of the president. The development removed Saddam's last legal means of avoiding execution.

"The president's approval is not needed," said Hiwa Osman, Talabani's media adviser. "The court's decision is final."

Iraqi officials had said prior to the appeals court ruling on Tuesday that any decision to impose the death penalty must be ratified by Talabani and Iraq's two vice-presidents.

But it appeared that lawyers concluded an Iraqi High Tribunal provision mandating imposition of the death penalty could take precedence over a law in the constitution that requires the president to approve death sentences.

"There will be no need for the president to sign any documents," Osman said. "Basically, it is out of the president's hands."

US President George W. Bush went to his ranch on Tuesday to rethink US involvement in Iraq as his spokesman hailed the death sentence.

"Today marks an important milestone in the Iraqi people's efforts to replace the rule of a tyrant with the rule of law," deputy White House press secretary Scott Stanzel told reporters aboard Air Force One to Texas, where Bush was to meet this week with his national security team.

(China Daily 12/28/2006 page7)